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Moral Black Holes
This week the Two Guys with PhDs turn their attention to three recent noir titles. But before they jump into their reviews, they talk about comics news and recent awards.
First, they congratulate Sonny Liew on receiving this year’s Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction for his best-selling work The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. This comes on the heels of him getting the Book of the Year accolade at the Singapore Book Awards, held in May.
Next, Andy and Derek say a few words about the results of this year’s Eisner Awards, announced at SDCC last Friday. The guys note that there are really no surprises in the winners, and that with perhaps one or two exceptions, those coming out on top in their categories make perfect sense. They are particularly pleased that so many of the titles and creators that they’ve discussed on the podcast received this recognition, and they are especially excited that so many friends of the show — such as Craig Yoe and Tom Heintjes — received the coveted Eisner.
After all of the awards talk, the guys get into the nitty gritty of this week’s episode. They start off with an adaptation of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia (BOOM! Studios/Archaia), the first in the novelist’s L.A. Quartet. Adapted by Matz and David Fincher, and with art by Miles Hyman, the story springs from the real-life murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. As with the original book, this graphic novel reveals the dark underside of Los Angeles and the post-war days of its entertainment industry. And it contains all of the icons and tropes that define noir narrative.
From there the guys turn to the latest collaboration from the superb crime-writing team of Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser, Kill or Be Killed #1 (Image Comics). This first issue has all of the trappings of the kind of stories we’ve come to expect from Brubaker and Phillips (e.g., The Fade Out, Criminal, Sleeper), but there’s a particular twist to the plot that recalls the supernatural tinges of Fatale. In fact, Derek and Andy aren’t sure if what happens in the story is because of other-worldly forces or just the result of psychological imbalance.
Finally, the guys wrap up with yet another crime comic, Justin Jordan and Raul Trevino’s Sombra #1 (BOOM! Studios). This story revolves around a young DEA agent, Danielle, and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her father, also an agent. This first issue takes the narrative into some dark places, and the guys focus on this comic as a retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In fact, the missing DEA agent is name Conrad Marlowe. How appropriate!