Cartoonist: David Taylor
WHAT IS IT?
A hardboiled crime story, The Grave is a black-and-white classic noir story. It’s dark and gritty, something that wants to carve its own place in a storied genre.
There’s a lot of Sin City vibes here. I think fans that enjoyed that will enjoy The Grave plenty. While this isn’t a spy thriller, I really feel like Coldest Winter fans can appreciate the aesthetic and grittiness of the book.
There’s a lot of Frank Miller’s influence here, so if that’s your spot, this is right up your alley.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The Grave is about a mysterious man who has come to the fictional town of The Dent after a funeral in Texas. While simply trying to enjoy a cheeseburger and coke (and the company of his waitress), our mystery man is dragged into a murder plot led by a nefarious crime organization.
The book feels like a special ode to the noir genre. Its gritty approach, its style, its wrong-place-wrong-time plot development, all feel like a love letter to what’s come before it. At the same time, there’s certainly hints of something deeper…for as much as the story delves into a revenge plot, the damages of trauma linger on the surface as well.
It’s in black and white! I love black-and-white comics, especially when the absence of color is, in fact, adding something to the story. Much like the noir genre at large, the absence of color feels like it makes the story darker thematically, more dreary.
The giant 1987 page is so much my joint. It really just fits well and I am just in love with it.
Annette’s humor is really a nice point in the book. It feels dangerously optimistic when you reach her, and it’s a nice character moment as we get to know her and Mystery Man.
The art style here is simple, but really perfect. Again, this is done well to abide by the groundwork of the genre.
Love the use of shadows. It really adds a dimension to character interactions, especially since this is a NOIR book.
Love the use of negative space on a couple of page layouts. Really getting people uncomfortable as big revelations become known adds such a keen emotional punch.
Negative space during gunshots and lighting changes are also just really cool to see. Without a colorist, using that negative space to denote changes isn’t just smart, it’s stylistically brilliant. It makes the entire page jump.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
I’m not crazy about the SFX lettering. It feels very weird, stunted, and overall just out of place on the comic page. The dialogue lettering is great, which only highlights the offness of the SFX.
The treatment of women in the part is rough. There’s a single woman in the section, and her entire existence in the plot is linked to her role as a lover to the men in it. I think what Taylor was trying to do here is craft a noir story very within the walls of the greater noir genre. In that, this is successful, because the hardboiled noir story is rarely kind to female characters. However, it just feels a little tired and outdated. Part One is only the beginning though, and I’m optimistic that Annette gets more fleshed out as a character than displayed so far.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Some part of me thinks this book is going to come with a prerequisite that you really like the hardboiled noir style stuff before you ever read it. Like I said previously, the book regularly feels like it’s a love letter to that era, that genre of storytelling.
At the same time though, this book is pretty approachable. The fact that it isn’t steeped in too deep with references makes it readable for people who haven’t previously been into something like it.
Really, though, The Grave earns your money and your eyes because it’s violent, it’s pretty, and it’s a damn good read. There’s so much mystery and intrigue that it really lands the hooks in early on. You know this is going to be a hell of a ride, but what kind of things will we uncover in the process? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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