Writer: Jordan Thomas
Artist: Chris Matthews
Publisher: Burnt Barn Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A stylized crime-thriller about a woman's journey to rescue her girlfriend from a ruthless crime boss with the help of her thieving ex-boyfriend.
Mugshots is what you get when you blend The Town with visuals akin to the Parker OGNs.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Danni, a down-on-her-luck gambler, owes a lot of money to not-the-friendliest-of-people. One night, she comes home to find her apartment trashed and her girlfriend, Em, kidnapped by the new owner of her debt, the ruthless crime boss, Charles Heart.
His demand is simple: find her criminal mastermind ex-boyfriend, Jamal, or some really bad things will befall Em. Danni tears through the streets, looking for her estranged ex in a race against time. Will Danni find Jamal in time? And even if she does, how far is she willing to go to save her girlfriend?
Jordan Thomas feels right at home writing crime stories. He strikes a great balance of thrilling heists and not pulling his punches when depicting the seedier elements of the criminal underworld.
Chris Matthews' artwork is nothing short of mesmerizing, inspired by the best in the crime genre, such as Eduardo Risso, Darwyn Cook, and Sean Phillips, while delivering a combination of style and grunge that's uniquely his own. Some of the best comics can be sold by flipping to any interior page and glancing at the art, and Chris Matthews has that quality in spades.
Matthews' toned coloring approach further stylizes his dynamic artwork, heightening the emotion of any given scene. One scene even balances three-toned colors on a spread and which complement their respective panels beautifully.
LetterSquids' lettering bursts with personality. Buildings are covered in graffiti, some words are boldened, underlined, and noticeably larger in comparison to words in the same balloon, and on one occasion, he does away with the word balloon altogether as if the word exploded onto the page.
The inclusion of a bisexual female lead in a genre dominated by masculine protagonists was a welcome change of pace.
The layouts from Matthews are easy to understand from the moment you turn a page and are varied enough to impress from beginning to end. Even his spread pages have clarity, utilizing them to convey a widescreen image from the top panel that extends all the way through to the right side of the spread.
Danni and Jamal's chemistry as ex-lovers is spot on. There's a familiarity in their interactions through dialogue and body language that immediately tells us how close they were without having to bog us down with their history.
The path to the ending is effective in planting doubt in the readers about what decision Danni will make to rescue Em, and the payoff is a brutal one. But like most good endings, further readings cement that there's only one way it could go.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This story contains nudity, sexual content, foul language, and instances of gritty violence.
Mugshots' first two dialogue pages are a little overwritten, ensuring we understand the exposition but lack the personality of later pages.
The twist feels tacked-on, with its impact dampened by following up with an even greater reveal on the same spread.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
In the crime genre, it can be tricky to stand out from industry giants Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, and the late Darwyn Cooke, but Jordan Thomas, Chris Matthews, and LetterSquids must have missed that memo. Their approach, while influenced by the genre's greats, explodes onto the scene with bold new energy reminding us why the crime genre is the comic industry's hidden ace.
Mugshots is a wonderful example of one-shot storytelling with a strong cast of characters and tight pacing that tells a compelling story within 27 pages without overstaying its welcome. Add Chris Matthews' phenomenal artwork to the mix, and you have the crime genre's next must-read creative team.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Currently, Mugshots is not available on any platforms, but stay tuned to Jordan Thomas' Twitter for updates on its availability.
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Burnt Barn characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Jordan Thomas and Chris Matthews, 2021 or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED