Story: Christa Faust and Gary Philips
Art: Andrea Camerini
Colors: Marco Lesko
Letters: Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
What They Say:
Times Square, 1986: the home of New York’s red light district where strip clubs, porno theatres and petty crime prevails.
When a chance encounter for Peepbooth worker Roxy Bell leads to the brutal murder of a public access pornographer, the erotic performer and her punk rock ex-partner Nick Zero soon find themselves under fire from criminals, cops, and the city elite, as they begin to untangle a complex web of corruption leading right to city hall.
Like The Naked City, there are eight million stories in The Deuce. This is one of them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
If you’ve been keeping up with my reviews, then you know I’m a huge fan of the publisher Hard Case Crime. Since its inception, it’s put out some of the best new and reprinted crime work out there. The level of quality in each book has always been outstanding, and that quality extends now to its new comic imprint published by Titan Comics.
New York City in the 1980s was practically a different world. Long before mayoral initiatives and invasions by huge corporations like Disney, New York was dirty and dangerous, home to some of the best grindhouses and loads and loads of peep shows, hookers, and X-rated movie theaters.
This is the world Roxy Bell inhabits. She works at Peepland, where she takes off her clothes for a living. For five bucks she’ll take off her clothes, ten bucks she does something more, and for twenty she’ll do something even more. Her normal shift gets interrupted by the surprise arrival of “Dirty” Dick Durbin, a low-rent pornographer who plied his wares on public access TV (If you were born after the 90s, this might seem far-fetched, but there was a time when prostitutes would advertise on New York public access. The city may not have invented sleaze, but for a few decades it reveled in it). Dirty Dick stashed a video tape in the chair outside Roxy’s peep booth and dashed off.
Durbin ultimately met his maker an hour or so later on the Subway, and Roxy’s life becomes a great deal more difficult when the cops come snooping. She keeps her mouth shut, and the cops eventually let her go. Once free, she heads to her ex-boyfriend Nick Zero to use his VCR to see why Durbin was so intent on hiding it. Needless to say, there are more than boobs on that tape.
Peepland hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. In an era of decompression, it’s refreshingly packed and lean. There are no wasted moments here, and each plot point transitions smoothly into the other, creating a powerful pace that builds in steam right to the end.
What makes this even more impressive is how nothing gets the short shrift here. The plot never slows, but we still get some fantastic character and setting development. It’s hard to believe that this is Faust’s first comic and Philip’s seventh, because I know professionals who have been in the business for years who can’t write a script this tight.
Of course, the real star of this comic is 1986 New York, and boy howdy does Andrea Camerini bring it to life. It’s dirty, cold, dangerous, but possessed of an almost savage beauty, like a wounded panther that won’t go without a fight. Marco Lesko deserves just as much credit for his superb color work, giving us hot—almost sickly pink in the Peepland booth and then jumping to the cold, grayblue New York of Christmas Eve. The colors tell the story just as much as the words and the art, and illustrate just how good a comic can be when the collaborators work in sync.
Christa Faust has long been one of my favorite Hard Case Crime writers, so I was excited to see that she wrote one of the two inaugural issues for this new comic imprint (Walter Hill, the excellent filmmaker, wrote the other). Maybe that makes me seem an easy sell on this, but believe me, this is a quality comic that’s sure to delight fans of hardboiled crime.
Peepland #1 comes out of the gate, swinging. It’s a damn-near perfect first issue that grabbed me from the first panel and never let me go. The storytelling is lean and mean without sacrificing anything and fans of crime fiction and just superbly written and drawn comics should check this sucker out. Dr. Josh gives this an….
Age Rating: N/A
Released By: Titan Comics
Release Date: October 12th, 2016