Story: Ollie Masters
Art: Eoin Marron
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
What They Say:
In 1970s Los Angeles, Jonny is one of the thousands of musicians trying to make it big while working a crummy bar job, and getting drunk with his whiskey-soaked P.I. friend, Jackie. When Jonny gets tangled up with a local mob hitman, he not only finds a new and violent career but maybe the inspiration for his music as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Something about this title just left me a little on edge since it was first announced. The name, the visual, it just left me feeling a little cool to it when I’m usually quite excited by new AfterShock announcements as they’ve become my publisher of choice in the last few years. With its 1970s setting not being a favorite time period for me to explore, I was wary. The book comes from Ollie Masters and its my first main experience reading their work, so there’s uncertainty there. What wasn’t uncertain was that I was going to love the artwork. Eoin Marron has been turning in some fantastic stuff for quite a while now, especially his James Bond work, that I was excited to see what he’d present here. And paired with the incomparable Jordie Bellaire? I knew I was in for a treat there and it doesn’t disappoint.
The opening installment brings a lot of foundational elements and sets it up well as we get different things that will come together. An older man on the run from bad guys in ski masks. Musicians. Private investigators. Hired killers. It paints that seedy darker image well. Our main focus is on Johnny, a struggling musician that practices at the bar he works in but spends most of his time tending to customers, dealing with fights, and all the usual duties. When he’s outside after his shift and sees a fight in an alley, he gets involved because that’s who he is. But the fight turns deadly and in self-defense, he kills the attack with a screwdriver through the neck. That leaves the other guy alive, who had passed out during the fight from how it all went down. As it turns out, he’s a hired killer who was trying to off the guy.
What follows is intriguing as the two get coffee together and have a discussion that feels very L.A. about how things were changing and falling apart at the time and the kind of connected nature. The unnamed hitman is trying to suss out who it is that saved him and did the job and that’s played well, enough so that he sees some potential in Johnny for actual work in this field with how well he handled it. Getting a handle on Johnny isn’t easy as we see how he struggles with a lot of things but has these moments of “lucidity” with his music and others but also the numerous fails along the way. His interactions with the PI, Jackie, is the most obvious one and seeing what she goes through here as a new case comes to her office from a kid, which feels like a dangerous subplot coming into focus, at the same time that her on the run uncle shows up from the beginning of the book paints a pretty good picture.
There’s a lot to like with this book and it’s filled with potential. I like that Masters has brought in multiple story points and kept the focus with Johnny while not making the other pieces feel undeserved. There’s a kind of theatrical quality to the diner scene that I like in how the dialogue flows and I love how Marron handles pretty much everything throughout, from characters to settings and locations. There’s a richness and roughness to it that clicks well to capture the feeling of this time. And Bellaire definitely brings out the right accents to it. I’m even intrigued by how Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou does a lot of tan to the word balloons and am curious to see if that evolves over it or if it’s just a stylistic choice in the general sense. It works well and fits the book perfectly. I’m definitely coming out of the first installment very excited for more in contrast to my incoming wariness.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: AfterShock Comics
Release Date: May 29th, 2019