Sunday, September 21, 2008


David Lloyd is an artist most famous for "V for vendetta", his collaboration with Alan Moore. And yet, much like Dave Gibbons and Eddie Campbell, Moore's other contributors, he did not subsequently rise to fame. The general impression seems to be that all of those artists are still around, but dabbling into experiments and alternative projects not really worthy of anyone's time. I guess that's what happens when your style is so associated with a particular Moore collaboration that most of your audience don't actually want to see you doing anything new.

And yet, if Lloyd's latest offering, the Kickback graphic novel, is cracked open, it reveals that the artist has matured into a very capable write/artist. Or perhaps he always was, and we didn't really get to see it before.

Make no mistake, "Kickback" is a genre piece, a neo-noir story in the same vein as "Romeo is bleeding". And if it indeed doesn't break the confines of sub-genre for the case of high-brow experimentation with comics' form, it's still a very good read. Once again, it's the specific nature of American comic books that leaves us with impression that doing superhero stories in that form is the norm, and that the creators should have found a way to employ their noir ideas in Hollywood. And I guess that's why David Lloyd's "Kickback" was first published in France.

In any event, Lloyd treats the sequential from as a real veteran. Utilizing his unique position as both the writer and the artist of the book, he tells the story in a way that is both very seamless and pleasant to look at.

The story starts a bit on the fast side, but eventually finds its pace, framed around the main character's enigmatic dreams. Yet, Lloyd manages not only to heap trouble upon his main character, showing us if police detective Joe Canelli can find his way out the toughest time in his life, when all his decisions come to haunt him, but also succeeds in presenting a character that actually has a social life to help him round it all out. Choosing to leave the setting of the story, largely ambiguous, Lloyd serves us up with Franklin city, a depressive and bleak town, that gives us right from the start an idea of the type of story we're about to read.

Much like David Lapham's "Silverfish", it's not really hard to envision the story as a movie, but that holds true to many of the crime novels too. Lloyd's handsome male-lead only helps further that assumption, but helpfully the supporting characters show up to deliver the realism with their all too common and true physical personas. Unfortunately Lloyd doesn't escape the most common of artist's traps, depicting regular women as super models, but that doesn't detract so much of the work, as does some of the more simplified characterizations, a few of the key players sport.

And yet, the story is all about the main character, who is, despite his solid looks and a beautiful caring woman beside him, a man troubled inside and out. By concentrating on really developing the main character's past, the rest of the story boils down to pitfalls necessary for him to "come of age", becoming a more complete person in the process.

As the book goes on, some of the more surreal symbolic elements are helpfully explained by the characters, and are dealt with a bit more directly than it would appear to be at the beginning of the story. Make no mistake, it's still a genre story, about a policeman facing the corruption in himself and his own department, but it goes about it in an interesting way, and most importantly, shows us how David Lloyd would develop such a scenario.

In any event, "Kickback" is a breath of fresh air, and goes to show how much the current market misses such well thought-out and artistically achieved books. David Lloyd has not only gave us a great thriller to read, he has left his fans eagerly awaiting the next project he chooses to develop, in whatever genre he decides to approach it.

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