Sunday, October 05, 2008

Four Eyes #1

Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Max Fiumara
Colourist: Nestor Pereyra
Letterer: Drew Gill

Joe Kelly's writing is frustratingly erratic, but it's always interesting. And when it's good, it's very good.

Four Eyes is one of his most promising books in a while. It's basically a 1930s gangster story. Little Enrico becomes the man of the house when his father gets himself killed while doing something very odd. And in the way of these stories, Enrico gets drawn into his father's world of... underground dragon fighting.

Yes, that's right, it's dragons in the Depression. Done wrong, this could easily be ridiculous. But perhaps there's no better time to dust off the poverty-stricken 1930s as a setting. The dragons seem strangely at home - they're fantasy elements, symbols of escapism, which have been dragged down to the level of the world around them. So while it could have been a cheap gimmick, it feels like there's a point to it.

Max Fiumara and Nestor Pereyra's artwork really makes the book. Fiumara's got the atmosphere of the thirties, with just enough exaggeration to keep it visually exciting. Oh, and he does great dragons. As for Pereyra, it's great to see a colourist who understands that a muted palette doesn't have to mean drenching the page in greyish brown, but who also knows when and how to bring on the fireworks.

All that said, there's one odd feature about this book, which I'm not sure quite how to interpret. Enrico keeps talking about dragons as though they're not meant to exist. But everyone else seems to regard them as a fact of life. They fly freely over the city, and there are newspaper articles about them at the back of the issue. So why is Enrico surprised that they exist? I'd normally assume that Kelly was hinting at some sort of dream angle, but he's already doing a similar theme with his miniseries I Kill Giants, so he surely can't be doing it again here. Perhaps it's just a weird distancing technique - and it does contribute to the dreamlike quality of the piece.

This is apparently an ongoing series, although there's no indication of when issue #2 might be out. The back cover says it's out "soon", which is no use to anyone - and rather worryingly, the Image house ads say it was meant to be out this month, so the book has apparently drifted off schedule before shipping a single issue. On that basis, I think I'll wait for the collection. But I will make sure to pick it up.

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