Monday, January 10, 2011

Best comics of 2010: No. 6: Sam and Twitch: the Writer

Another book that slipped by me for years.
I have little use for most of the Spawn franchise. I enjoyed some of the guest creators' work in early issues, and the rest of the stuff Alan Moore did for Image, while far from his strongest work, was an engaging read. But in general, Spawn leaves me cold.
These two detectives, Sam Burke and Maximillian "Twitch" Williams, were spawned (yeah, I know, I did that on purpose just to get it out of the way) of the early series. They were sufficiently well received to get their own titles, a series of shorter and longer minis.
It's tense, witty and gritty detective stuff. There's an unflagging loyalty between Sam, the muscle, and Twitch, the mind. It's brutal and ugly, but like Warren Ellis' FELL, it's ultimately about holding onto your humanity in the face of that brutality.

The 2010 series, by writer Luca Blengino and artists  Luca Erbetta (pencils), Fabio Bono (inks) and Filippo Rizzu (colors), deals with a killer who is carving a novel into his/her victims, word by word. 

The book is a tough read at times, not so much because of the content, but because of the visual style. The art is gritty, sketchy and full of detail, bringing to mind Alex Maleev's Daredevil run. Since Maleev's Daredevil writer, Brian Micheal Bendis, also wrote an earlier Sam & Twitch run, that's not surprising.  But the real issue is the text.
No word balloons here. Free floating text, reversed out of the art and connected to the speaker bu a simple line. It scans, but it takes some getting used to.

This is far from the first comic book to use typesetting. Even before the digital revolution (whatever that is), EC Comics were lettered using a Kroy lettering machine that created incredibly uniform text.

And Walt Kelly typeset the speech of his sideshow barker P.T. Bridgeport, though he may have just used presstype- it's been a while since I've seen a Pogo original to confirm, but I recall seeing some text pasteups.
In aid of their detection, Sam and Twitch enlist the aid of a graphologist to help them decipher the text, and locate its murderous author, if the killer is indeed the writer,

As our detectives search for the killer, they are put at risk. Following an uncompromising fight, Sam is hospitalized as Twitch has the final encounter with the killer.
Much as with Holmes and Watson,  Mulder and Scully, or in an unlikely way, House and Wilson, Sam and Twitch are a team with a specific personal chemistry and a bond of camaraderie.
These sample pages only allude to another aspect of this series. It's quite bloody. Most of the time, I don't care for that. Here, it works and it serves the story.
I'm a bit embarrassed that these characters slipped by me for so long. Rest assured, I'll not bypass them again.
Tomorrow: Best of No. 5, a very tasteful book.

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