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One You Want 006: Loose Ends #2, 12-Gauge Comics

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Each week a lot of comics hit the stores.
Some you’ve heard of. Some you haven’t.
Some have superheroes. Some don’t.
They might be comic books, they might be graphic novels.
This is the One You Want.

THIS WEEK:  Loose Ends #2, written by Jason Latour and illustrated by Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi, 12-Gauge Comics, 32 Pages, $3.99

I’m a sucker for a good crime.

Well, in my entertainment, anyway. It can be deep black Noir or hyper-stylized Tony Scott and Tarantino to the more subdued and grounded Sopranos. I love every single page of Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal and am rabid of the Image Comics published series, Blue Estate. They’re all damn good.

That said, I think it’s a very hard genre to pull off well, probably just under autobio and science-fiction. Like anything, it’s tough to make, say, a heist original. Take Tarantino for example. You know why Reservoir Dogs is so damn good? Sure, the execution, but the characters are so damn strong and original you don’t even need to see the heist. Blue Estate knocks me on my ass so hard because Viktor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev and Andrew Osborne approach almost every single sub-genre of crime in one story, conveyed by an army of incredible artists such as Toby Cypress (you’ll remember him from Rodd Racer), Nathan Fox, Robert Valley and more. Like anything, it’s mixing the tough cocktail of unique approach and style to do it right.

God damn, Loose Ends really does it right.

I’ve been excited about Loose Ends for a while now, ever since 12-Gauge Comics Publisher Keven Gardner gave me a copy of their preview book some time ago. At the time, 12-Gauge was producing books through Image Comics, including another favorite crime series, The Ride. Now they’re publishing on their own and what was once a preview book is finally a full-fledged mini-series.

I was excited from his initial mention of it, as the writer, Jason Latour, is an astounding artist in his own right and I was excited to see him write for someone else. While we’re talking about Jason, I’ve gotta push you to check out his other comics. The guy knows how to move a pen like no one’s business. Despite being ill-fated, his Expatriate series with B. Clay Moore is gorgeous in every single panel. After the series’ cancellation, he decided to focus more on honing his craft and when he returned, the results were obvious. Since then, he’s beautifully illustrated such books as the Vertigo Crime graphic novel, Noche Roja, and series as Scalped, Daredevil: Black & White and Wolverine.

I’m such a fan of Jason’s work, because even from the very first time I saw his art in Expatriate, I could see an artist who stood out from the crowd. Even before he took the time to hone his craft, his line work was uniquely his. Could you see his influences? Sure, but he stood out from the get-go. Not something easily pulled off. I was - am - impressed.

I’m thrilled to confirm the same goes for his writing.

12-Gauge describes Loose Ends as a “gritty, slow cooked, ‘southern crime romance’” and it really shows. Issue one - mostly - started off in and around a bar called The Hideaway, where a guy named Sonny Gibson gets noticed by all the wrong people. The way Jason introduces everyone isn’t blatant, you’re slowly discovering who’s who without knowing exactly what’s what, but how he does it keeps you intrigued.

So, it’s a good read.

But - holy Hell, it is a gorgeous looking book. Yes, the production values are astounding. For the same price as a lot of other standard comic books, they’re printing this thing oversized, on better paper than I see just about anyone else using. Great, right?

Well, yeah, but the even better part is the art from Chris Brunner and Rico Renzi. I encountered their work for the first time at the same convention Keven handed me the Loose Ends preview. They go by the name Kickstand Kids and shortly after I got the preview book, I bought one of their prints solely due to how highly it struck me. Like Jason’s own art, the combo of Chris’ line work and Rico’s colors creates something completely different than what anyone else is doing. People constantly overuse and abuse the term “kinetic” when describing art, but it really applies to these guys. Their work seems alive; it has a certain visual music which plays a different chord than anything in Scalped, Blue Estate and Criminal. I’m just as much intrigued to see where the visuals go as I am the story, which is an even rarer trait than developing a unique style.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you’re certainly in luck as the second issue is just out now and the first issue has recently been made available again after an initial sell-out. Tempted to wait for the trade? 12-Gauge is an independent publisher, so each and every sale of each and every issue helps and ensures an eventual collection can happen. Be sure to support them issue-by-issue.

Not doing so is a crime.

Loose Ends #2, a 32-page full-color, oversize comic book for $3.99, is available in stores on August 17th, 2011. Look for your local comic shop by going to http://comicshoplocator.com.

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Joe Keatinge is the Eisner and Harvey award-winning co-editor of POPGUN and writer of the upcoming Image Comics series, BRUTAL, with illustrator Frank Cho. He lives in Portland, OR and works out of the comics studio, Tranquility Base. Follow him on Twitter @joekeatinge.

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