Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Damned Volume 1: Three Days Dead Review (Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt)

Before The Sixth Gun there was an earlier collaboration between Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt: The Damned. Instead of the wild west, it’s prohibition-era America with gangs of demons trafficking in the souls of humans, in particular two crime families who have been warring for years. Except when peace is finally brokered, the emissary for the two is kidnapped along with a ledger containing deadly secrets that’ll bring down both houses. It’s up to Eddie, a cursed small time fixer, to come back to life and find the missing demon and his book of souls.

There are some wonderful noir crime comics out there: Road to Perdition, Sin City, and A History of Violence (all of which have coincidentally been made into brilliant films) – unfortunately The Damned isn’t one of them. I think Brian Hurtt’s art style, which looks very comic book-y and not very edgy, doesn’t suit the genre. For noir, the more realistic or stylised, the better, and what works for a western like Sixth Gun, doesn’t work well for a noir/horror tale. They did go for the black and white look though so it resembles a 1940s gangster movie.

Cullen Bunn can write the expected snappy dialogue associated with the genre, but generally can’t make any of the characters rise above their archetypes. Eddie is the same main character in every noir story, there’s the double-crossing femme fatale, you get the idea – besides having the gangsters as demons, there’s nothing new here. Even the supernatural aspect of Eddie’s character felt lifted from Will Eisner’s The Spirit. 

The story is very surface-level and uninvolving while the characters are paper-thin and not particularly interesting. The art and writing is ok, they just didn’t click, at least for me, in this book. 

I think if you’re more of a fan of noir/crime comics – it’s not really a horror comic despite the monsters – you’ll enjoy this more, especially if you enjoyed Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale. I’m less inclined to like this book because I’m not much of a noir fan but there are noir/crime comics that I’ve really enjoyed, so if it were better, it might’ve left a better impression. As it is, The Damned? No dice.

The Damned Volume 1: Three Days Dead

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