Hard-Bullied Comics Vol. 1: Back in Blackmail
Steven Earnhart and Rudolf Montemayor
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Buy *Hard-Bullied Comics Volume One: Back in Blackmail* by Steven Earnhart and Rudolf Montemayor online

Hard-Bullied Comics Volume One: Back in Blackmail
Steven Earnhart and Rudolf Montemayor
Goodbum Studios
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The year is 2024 and the place is Los Angeles, a seething cesspool of violence, drugs, and corruption. Right, not much has changed, except that mutations and aliens are inóand thatís not a reference to plastic surgery and people from other countries. After a case goes particular sour for private investigator Billy Blackburn, he finds himself stuck in the gutters with few people other than bill collectors knocking at his door. When the wealthy businessman Mr. Torchsong comes knocking and almost instantly hires Billy, he is grateful, to be sure,though not entirely without suspicion. But, for now, the money is flowing, and that is what an investigator thrives on.

Torchsong requests that Billy recover the original video of his daughter involved in lewd acts and excessive drug intact that someone is using to blackmail Torchsong. Realizing the depth and force that might be needed in this investigation, Billy quickly employs the help of his harder, stronger, more aggressive friend, Knuckles. But shortly into the case, it becomes apparent that there are several people with vested interest in this, and that solving this case is going to take a bit more than Torchsong originally implied. Several car chases, fist fights with an anthropomorphized steroid-injecting shark, and a sadistic clown later, and they quickly discover how perverse the world can be.

Hard-Bullied Comics is a gritty, smart, action-packed tale filled with its share of sarcasm, brutality, and noir that fans of creators such as Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and Grant Morrison will thoroughly relish. Earnhart brings a fresh vibe to the hard-boiled detective genre that will leave readers yearning for more.

Rudolf Montemayorís art perfectly complements Earnhartís narrative style. The stark black and white art works well with the story, creating a cold environment where blood and skin are colorless, as if in this dystopian future they matter little. Montemayor does some really interesting work throughout this collection, manipulating panels, character viewpoints, and visual displays such as television screens within the story itself. Though he generally sticks to a paneled format for most of the book, when he does break out of the borders, it leaves that much more of an impression on the reader.

The book includes a decent collection of extras. The first is a different artistís adaptation of Issue #2. As a point of comparison, it proves intriguing to see how artists work with the same dialogue but illustrate it in different manners. This is followed by a brief tour of Los Angeles and the classic bars and lounges that have served as fodder for detective stories in Los Angeles for decades. The next is a bit more dubious. The creators decided to include a variety of alcoholic drinking recipes for readers to enjoy. It makes sense, on the one hand, since adults are the general demographic here, but on the other hand it seems rather irrelevant. However, the background information provided on the history of hardboiled detective stories in the pages thereafter is a great way to allow readers to further understand the mechanics of this story. A brief sketch gallery of future characters and a profile page of characters included in the first volume round out the bonus material in this striking new series.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Lance Eaton, 2007

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