The Big Hoax.

I expected something akin to Affair In Trinidad or even Gilda, two cherished South American locale films noir teaming Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. Well, The Big Hoax isn’t quite like those films, but is still a very intriguing piece.

This is a 2020 Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics 124-page hardcover edition of the 2001 graphic novel by Carlos Trillo and Roberto Mandrafino’s – the Argentine writer and artist, respectively. In what appears to be the post-WWII era, the banana republic of La Colonia’s corrupt regime is a notorious vice haven run by gangsters and ex-Nazis, populated by a devout but downtrodden peasantry and threatened by rebels. Disgraced former detective Donald Reynoso, a useless drunk when we first meet him, is hired by the lovely Melinda Centurion to retrieve some very compromising photos, which pit the duo against corrupt cops, revolutionaries and a ruthless and relentless hit man. Precisely why Melinda must get these revealing photos back is a whole other story, and what the titular “Hoax” is about.

Trillo’s story veers between bawdy humor and pure hard-boiled banter and action, frequently stepping back from the narrative for various characters to briefly narrate vital backstory. All of this is depicted in Roberto Mandrafino’s fluid and energetic artwork, which has a touch of caricature about it, but always stays focused on telling the tale. Even if it wasn’t at all what I first expected, I really got a kick out of The Big Hoax, but then, I’ve yet to be let down by any of Titan’s Hard Case Crime comics.

Femme Noir.

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In a preceding post I mentioned a list of comics missed or overdue for a revisit that has accumulated while the shops have been shuttered the past few months. They still are closed, around here at least, but are expected to re-open soon. All the same, while I’m blessed with several nice stores very close by, they’re woefully light on indies, being strictly focused on the capes-n-tights crowd from the majors. But one off the beaten track shop will come through, I know, and that’s where I’ll mine the bins for Christopher Mills and Joe Staton’s Femme Noir.

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I have several back issues, but grabbed them at random and not in sequence, and really want to hunker down with the whole series. Bursting out of Port Nocturne’s deep dark shadows in always-energetic artwork, Mills and Staton’s Femme Noir seems like a genuinely pulpy comic treat based on the disjointed storyline I’ve gleaned from what I have. The Dark City Diaries, Blonde Justice and Dead Man’s Hand…now there’s a bunch I need to acquire, whether in individual issues or trade reprints. Counting the days (or a couple weeks, depending on what I hear).

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Criminal #6: Can’t Wait

Criminal 6

I just picked up Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip’s Criminal #4 this past weekend, and now I see that the cover for Criminal #6 just appeared at Sean Phillips’ site on Monday morning – theartofseanphillips.blogspot.uk. Not due out till mid-July…but I’ll be waiting.

Lady Killer: Joelle Jones

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I never say this person’s the best artist, the best writer, the best actor, etc. But I’m not timid about saying who are my favorites, and the brilliant Joelle Jones is on that list. Incredibly skilled with design and composition as well as an artful stylist, Jones isn’t content being a terrific artist, but has to be an inventive and creative writer as well…the show-off. Some handiwork of her best project so far (IMHO) shown here: Lady Killer, about 1960’s suburban housewife Josie Schuller, who’s also happens to be a lethal hit woman.

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HIT 1955 – 1957

Hot 1955 #1

HIT, from BOOM Comics, written by Bryce Carlson with art (and some of the series covers) by the great Vanesa R. Del Rey.

There are two HIT series: 1955 and a follow-up, 1957. Both are dark, noir-ish hard-boiled crime fiction at its very, very best. The set-up’s reminiscent of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, and films like Mulholland Falls or Gangster Squad, dealing with LAPD Detective Harvey Slater, who’s an undercover member of the secret Hit Squad, lawless thugs with badges on a top-brass-endorsed mission to purge Los Angeles of organized crime. But Detective Slater’s due for real trouble when the woman from his past returns to L.A., none other than Bonnie Brae, who just happens to be his Captain’s daughter. Brae’s pure trouble in a dress, and one of the finest femme fatales to appear in comics in years.

Hit 1955

Like many comic trade paperbacks, the HIT books include extras, like a Duane Swierczynski introduction and cover alternates from Erik Gist, Trevor Hairsine, Terry Dodson and Ryna Soo. But best of all, both of these have bonus short stories, which were a real treat. I loved both series, loved Carlson’s storytelling and Del Rey’s art, but most of all, I loved Bonnie Brae, and I bet you will too.

Hit 1957

Blue Estate

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So-Cal Neo-Noir comics fun with really, really bad guys and delightfully dangerous femmes fatales: The Blue Estate series concept and story was developed by Kosta Yanev, with the issues scripted by Andrew Osborne. Art direction and covers by artist Viktor Kalvachev with interior art by Toby Cypress. Don’t know why someone didn’t just buy the rights to this thing and make a movie already…like most comics, it’s pre-storyboarded and ready to go.

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Noir City

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The latest Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City e-magazine (number 25) came out right before the holidays like a Christmas present for noir buffs, though this buff was a busy buff and only able to get through a portion before the halls had to be decked and all the fa-la-la-ing taken care of. But recently when a loooong waiting room delay found me without a book, a magazine or even a comic to browse, I remembered the PDF issue was still lurking on my laptop.

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Noir City is about as good as it gets, as far as I’m concerned. This time the e-mag is just a whisker shy of a hundred pages, each in lushly illustrative designs by AD Michael Kronenberg. This issue focuses on International Noir, with articles on noir cinema in Mexico, Japan, Iran and more. But that’s just for starters, the e-mag also including articles on comic artist Jim Steranko’s noir work, a graphic novel adaptation of Lawrence Block’s Eight Million Ways To Die, an interview with Hard Case Crime co-founder Charles Ardai…well, it just goes on and on.

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If you haven’t looked into The Film Noir Foundation, do so. Your contributions not only help support the organization’s festivals, vital film preservation and restoration work, but also can snag a subscription to this extremely cool publication.

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