DASH: THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS ZITA MAKARA
Writer: Dave Ebersole
Illustrator: Delia Gable and Vinnie Rico with Sean Von Gorman
Publisher: Northwest Press
WHAT IS IT?
A new take on an old-fashioned noir with a supernatural twist.
As the back cover declares, it’s The Maltese Falcon meets The Mummy meets Raiders of the Lost Ark. Imagine if Sam Spade was actually Indiana Jones.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It’s 1940 and Dash Malone is a private detective in Los Angeles. He’s the hard-nosed, wise-cracking type. He’s also gay and out, not necessarily by choice, due to a public scandal when he was a member of the police force.
Dash is visited by the alluring Zita Makara who attempts to hire him to exchange cash for an artifact. Dash decides to trust his gut and pass on the job for the time being. The discovery of a desiccated corpse that hits too close to home for Dash puts him in the crosshairs of an old nemesis from the Los Angeles police. As Dash investigates, it becomes clear that Zita Makara is connected to the murder and she may not be exactly what she appears. While Dash investigates, he also reflects on his relationship with his lover Johnny “Plink” Plinketts. Will he be able to survive long enough to solve the case and save the day?
DASH hits all the right tropes of a classic noir. There is a solid story foundation here. Ebersole clearly understands what makes this type of story work.
Ebersole uses this genre, typically reserved for a character seen as the paragon of traditional heterosexual masculinity (often toxically so), and has created a gay character just as masculine.
The supernatural story elements work well. It builds slowly through the course of the story and, when things fully land, the characters react in a way that is completely believable.
Dash Malone is a great character reminiscent of Indiana Jones or Han Solo. He’s not world-weary like Sam Spade, but clever and quick-witted. He knows who he is and won’t be shamed for it.
The supporting characters are fully formed, nuanced, and full of personality. Ebersole gives the supporting cast such wonderful character moments. I love the friendship between Officer Sal McGillicutty and Dash. It’s truly an excellent example of male friendship, and shows two characters that deeply care for one another.
The narrative captions work well to give a glimpse into Dash’s thoughts and character. Voiceover narration is a familiar device in film noir, and Ebersole makes the captions work to great effect here.
The loose threads that have been set out along the way get pulled tight by the end in a satisfying way. The resolution feels fully earned.
Art duties are split in the main story with Delia Gable handling the art and lettering for parts 1-4 and Vinnie Rico on art and colors for parts 5-6. The lettering for parts 5-6 is done by Charles “Zan” Christensen. The artwork is fairly consistent throughout the entire story, although there may be a harder edge to the look of the characters in parts 5 and 6. I thought this worked well considering the darker, supernatural elements of those parts.
The color palette throughout is rather muted. This complemented the story well considering the genre and 1940s setting.
The action sequences, particularly in parts 5-6, look great. There are a few full-page spreads that are wonderful.
The lettering style is consistent throughout despite two different letterers. The placement of the caption boxes and word balloons helps to set – and keep – the pace when reading.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
It became a little difficult to follow the Egyptian mythology without a nearby wiki or reference guide.
The depiction of violence and carnage in the later sections, in particular in part 6, did not fit with the tone of the earlier parts of the story.
The plot gets too convoluted and a bit bogged down late in the story. There's a lot of plot here and some elements that aren't introduced until parts 5 and 6 feel unnecessary to the overall story.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
DASH is a heck of a lot of fun. There are great characters, a great mystery story that combines elements of classic noir and supernatural pulp fiction, and great art. There's a beautiful love story here as well, with a gay main character in a story that shows him being physically intimate with his “man pal,” as Cindy Crenshaw would say, and openly reflecting on his feelings for him. It’s a refreshing take on a story that, as written, might have been banned in 1940, and still feels progressive today.
DASH is for any reader looking for a classic noir or pulp mystery, especially readers that enjoy a bit of the supernatural. It's also for readers looking for a story with an LGBTQIA+ main character who challenges the stereotypes for this genre.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Casket Girls by Dave Ebersole and Sam Fryer
Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge and Joy San
If you like the art:
A Ninja Named Stan by Mike Whittenberger and Delia Gable
Fake Empire by Eric Palicki and Vinnie Rico
Pawn Shop by Joey Esposito and Sean Von Gorman
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Dave Ebersole – Co-Creator and Writer
Multi-talented: In addition to writing comics, Dave is also a theatre director and playwright.
Prolific: In the Spring he plans on launching a Kickstarter for a new book titled Tommy Dakota & The Shoot-out At The Burgundy Ten.
Dave also teaches classes on playwriting and comic book writing in the Philadelphia area.
Delia Gable – Co-Creator, Artist, and Letterer
Multi-talented: On her website she describes herself as an artist, musician (she’s a bass player), cat lover, and a voracious reader.
Her art has been exhibited in several NYC galleries and at special events on both coasts.
Vinnie Rico – Artist
Per the Dash website, he is a “Mexican comic artist who’s very interested in social issues and pizza."
Prolific: His other comic work includes art for Fake Empire written by Eric Palicki and art for The End is Totally Nigh written by Kara Barrett.
Dream Team: He will be teaming up with Ebersole again on Tommy Dakota, which Ebersole described as a modern-western-queer-romance-bank heist graphic novel.
Sean Von Gorman – Artist
Multi-talented: He is an illustrator and escape artist from Brooklyn, NY.
Prolific: He is the co-creator of the comic Toe Tag Riot with Matt Miner.
Charles “Zan” Christensen – Letterer
He was the founding President of LGBTQ comics nonprofit Prism Comics in 2003.
He started Northwest Press in 2010 to provide a home for LGBTQ comics projects.
Prolific: In addition to lettering many projects, he co-created the series The Mark of Aeacus and The Power Within with Mark Brill.
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DASH was co-created by Dave Ebersole and Delia Gable and published by Northwest Press. All characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of the above or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.