Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Black Diamond Detective Agency

The Black Diamond Detective Agency follows the exploits of John Hardin. This unfortunate soul is present at a huge, devastating train explosion and is framed for the bombing and subsequent robbery. He spends much of the rest of the book figuring out who framed him and also trying to find his wife, who has mysteriously gone into hiding. As he discovers a convoluted plot and encounters people with all kinds of agendas he is pursued by the eponymous detective agency and the US Secret Service.

This book is the product of artist Eddie Campbell and author C. Gaby Mitchell. I have been a huge Campbell fan for years. He has been making comics for decades now, from his Bacchus stories based in Greek mythology to his autobiographical Alec tales. He has long been interested in comics history and doing many period pieces. He is best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on the Jack the Ripper epic From Hell. Mitchell is best known for his screenplays for the movies Blood Diamond and Get Low. In fact, this book was based on one of his unproduced screenplays.

I enjoyed reading this book and found the action and mystery aspects compelling. There were parts where I was confused by the sequence of events or who characters were, but I was drawn in by the expertly painted art. I enjoyed the twists and also thought some of the situations seemed pretty typical of movie cliches, for example the obligatory tease of a love interest, the hero rescuing a woman from a ledge, and the official agency embracing the outlaw loose cannon.

Reviews I have seen for this book have been mixed. Kirkus Reviews called the book "a visually stunning graphic narrative with all sorts of complicated plot twists." Andrew Wheeler was slightly disappointed by the book, and he wrote that "Campbell’s loose line did sometimes make it difficult for me to keep track of characters, though, especially with a lot of men in somber suits and facial hair. Other than that, the art is dynamic and carries the action well, with panels varying in size and position from tight grids to loose frameworks, depending on the scene." The reviewer at First Panel was not impressed with the book despite it being a period piece and concluded, "The story was alright, the visuals were alright, but I wouldn’t put it on a must-read list." Douglas Wolk gave the book a B-.

This book was published by First Second. They have a video preview posted here.

The Black Diamond Detective Agency does contain some brief nudity, a sex scene, and some scenes of blood and violence, so it is more suitable for more mature readers.

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