Saturday, August 28, 2010

Black Kiss

While in Maine in August, I stopped a comic book store and browsed for some fun. I passed on buying "Crossed", as I could get it cheaper elsewhere. I noticed the catalogue of older stuff, so I inquired about the "Black Kiss" miniseries (I blogged about this before). The owner of the store laughed and said he'd search for it out back. He actually had it in stock! We cut a nice deal, and he said he never thought he'd find a buyer for that so he stuck it out back. We then discussed American Flagg (by the author of Black Kiss), challenges the industry faces, and how the creator of Black Kiss was one of the greatest sketch artists of women in comic history. It was a nice conversation. I left the store with my paper bag under my arm, and didn't read the series until this week.

Quickly: Black Kiss is completely deviant and intelligent. Heck the title and cover art is a play on the French Film "Red Kiss" and its posterart. Compare here and here.

Similar to the Watchmen, if you pay attention to the panels, you can figure out the story before it is fully revealed. The book was sold to adults only, so Chaykin (the author) assumed he had intelligent enough readers, not kids who need to be explained everything. The small details to the panels is what makes comics tough to adapt to movies, and it is one of the things I truly love about the medium. Chaykin places little easter eggs in panels and even in dialogue. The story flows, and is not just cheap sex scene followed by a fight and then more sex. This is not a normal vampire story, but it does involve a vampire. It also reminds me of "LA Confidential" and "The Black Dahlia", both by James Ellroy. The city of Angels has a dark underside, and Chaykin's Black Kiss explores it. Chaykin has a problem of always trying to see a giant conspiracy of evil corporations behind everything, so it was nice to see a crime story from him. Yes there is cult involved and a bit of a blackmail conspiracy, but it isn't some giant all encompassing story.

The art is black and white, and I like the effect it has on the story. There is a noir feel to it despite being set in the 80s. Since the story references the old days of Hollywood and has a main character that was a star in the 50s, it feels right. It also allows Chaykin to draw the female form and use the light/dark contrast to make things look fantastic. Chaykin draws women like the old timey cheesecake pin ups, and he delivers here. I also want to point out that the lead male has the same look of every lead male in a Chaykin story: dark hair, handsome, square jaw, physically fit and slightly above average height. It's a bit weird seeing sex scenes drawn into a comic book, but then again I've seen bodies explode, heads get cut off and arms torn off in comics as a kid.
For such a short series, the characters get fleshed out. These are not just one dimensional psychos, nymphos or knights in shining armor. There are a lot of grey characters in this black and white series. The relationship between Beverly Grove and Dagmar Laine is interesting. Beverly 'saved' Dagmar, and ever since then, Dagmar has been a 'thrall' (slave) for Beverly. They are lovers, and it is obvious they do care for one another, but there is an odd obsession at the core of Dagmar's love for Beverly. Their is an inequality in their coupling, and they know it but don't speak of it often. Dagmar (a tranny) has a strong, same sex non-sexual crush on Bev, as well as truly loving her. Dagmar has had plastic surgery to look like Beverly so much that they could be mistaken for one another. Dagmar desperately wants acceptance and love. She wants to be 'turned', which wouldn't strengthen their love, but would make Dagmar more like Beverly. Their relationship, as twisted as it sounds, is the core of this dark story. I recommend this if comics and dark stories are your thing.

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