Story: Brentt Harshman
Art: Emilio Utrera
Letters: LetterSquids Publisher: Self-published
WHAT IS IT?
A one-shot, 12-page (cover to cover), modern-day crime drama.
It touches on the more familial aspects of crime life. What do you do when all you've known is a life of crime, but you're a dad, and you want to be a responsible father figure?
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Mick's a criminal. No two ways about it. He's planning his next job in a McDonald's right now, in the first page of the comic.
But he's a criminal with a daughter, and he sees the strain his life of crime puts on his relationship with her, as it has already put between him and her mom.
And so, he writes a letter to her, explaining himself and his choices to his daughter, leading up to the job he's going to pull.
A job that doesn't feel quite right...
Mistakes is a tightly written story that uses familial relationships to build tension in a way you don't often see in the crime genre.
The calm closeness of a man writing a letter to his daughter contrasts against the suspenseful action sequence, tied in theme but not in tone, and it makes for some really effective storytelling evocative of The Godfather Part II.
Utrera captures moments well, almost like taking a snapshot in the middle of an action sequence. He looks at scenes cinematically, showing guilt-laden introspection or a sense of resolve through angles and close-ups, and you just get it, without needing to rely on the narrative to help sell it. He'll balance these with other shots that help establish a location or set a tone, and it's very artfully done. The man captures the sticky Americana of a McDonald's like nobody else.
A.H.G.'s color is a huge part of what makes Utrera's line art pop so well, and the dramatic shift in tone from the daytime to nighttime, the latter of which is when the "job" is being pulled, elevates the tension to anxiety-inducing levels.
The page turn reveal as the night's action kicks off is a fabulous use of the 9-panel grid and the comics medium in general. The contrast in color and theme works so well to balance the page, create tension as Mick drives, and illustrate these two very different lifestyles that weigh heavily on Mick's mind.
LetterSquids' lettering is a delight. As someone who often reads comics on his phone, I really appreciate how legible the font is, even on a handheld device. I like the implication of the caption that Mick's writing this letter on a piece of lined notebook paper – not a card or a blank sheet, or anything like that. It gives some insight into his character, and a little charm, too. Especially with the coffee stains.
The sound effects look hand-made (at least, at first, then changed into a font), which gives a nice, organic feel to them. A lot of expletives are either shown as sound effects or have a larger, painted font style, and I love how this gives a jarring emphasis to those words.
The title of the comic works well with the tension of the story to set expectations for where the story is going to go and what its major theme will be.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Certain lines take me out of it, mostly in the letter Mick writes to his daughter. Stuff like "Remember how delicious that particular Happy Meal was" sound so odd – how would he know it's delicious? Maybe his daughter wouldn't stop talking about how good it was, but that's what he'd remember, and recalling that would make it more personal. Calling her mom "Heather" instead of just saying "your mom" also seems odd and impersonal in the medium.
The yellow "MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH" sound effects don't contrast enough with the blue on the third page, at least on a screen, and I wish they popped a little more.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Mistakes is a finely tuned examination of family and its future in the face of crime. In a way, it's a metaphor for that feeling you get when you become a parent: you can't be as wild and irresponsible as you were when you were younger – you have people in your life who depend on you.
Harshman and crew examine that choice in Mistakes and leverage it for the book's tension. Will Mick decide to give up being a getaway driver in favor of being there for his daughter? Or will he continue his life of crime, since it's the only life he's ever known? It's a choice we all understand, on some base level, but illustrated so well and succinctly here.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Mistakes is coming soon. Follow Brentt Harshman on Twitter to know when it drops!
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