Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries #2


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Femme Noir: The Dark City Diaries #2


  • Words: Christopher Mills
  • Art: Joe Staton
  • Inks: Mark Stegbauer
  • Colors: Matt Webb
  • Story Title: Dead Man?s Hand
  • Publisher: Ape Entertainment
  • Price: $3.95
  • Release Date: Jul 30, 2008

The tragic tale of a desperate gambler is the focus of this second issue of Christopher Mills’ love letter to hard-boiled pulp fiction.

In Port Nocturne, the dark city, corruption and crime run rampant and death stalks the streets. Tonight, it comes for one Eden Sidaris, wife of down-on-his-luck gambler Roman Sidaris. When Eden is found murdered in her home, the question of her killer’s identity arises. Is it gangster King Diamond, to whom Roman owes 12 grand? "Jacko" Klubbs, Diamond’s hired muscle? Or is there something more sinister at work? Whatever the case, Lieutenant Rod Riley and the mysterious gun-toting blonde who defends the Port are determined to find out…

Christopher Mills makes no apologies with Femme Noir. An homage to two-fisted detective stories and 1940s film noir, the series wears its influences on its sleeve and revels in every classic cliché and trope of the genre. Rather than seeming too cute or trite however, Femme Noir achieves its goal of invoking the moody atmosphere of its source material. In this second print outing for Mills’ webcomic, the more fantastical elements of the series are downplayed in favor of a straight-up murder mystery. The writer skillfully employs a few red herrings and flashbacks in telling the story and creates a shadowy ambiance of gangsters, nightclubs, beat cops, and vigilantes. The hard-boiled dialogue and 40s era slang may skirt the line of cheesiness for some readers but it’s all done with such earnestness and affection for the style (not to mention a frequent wink to the audience), it’s hard not to get swept up by the creator’s passion.

Mills also displays a gift with names that helps to nail the style and tone he is aiming for. With their double meanings, puns, and mythological overtones (Port Nocturne, Club Selene, Laurel Lye, Jacko Klubbs, etc.), many of these characters and settings feel like they could have come out of The Spirit or Dick Tracy. It’s a wonderfully retro world that Mills is creating with this series, one the reader can be easily immersed in with only a small dose of irony.

The art by veteran comics artist Joe Staton is also a major factor in capturing the desired feel. Staton’s somewhat stylized cartooning—all rounded curves and sharp angles—has many echoes of the classic comic strips of the 40s era , right down to the title being visually (and dramatically) incorporated into the opening splash. His design for the unnamed blonde anti-heroine, with her thick ringlets of hair and swirling miasma of cigarette smoke, creates an equally memorable visual. Stegbauer’s thick inks and Webb’s striking colors complete the cartoony effect without losing the darker undercurrent of the book.

If you’re a fan of classic style noir or crime stories, Femme Noir delivers an all-around entertaining package. Mills and team continue to remind us that crime does not pay and justice…is blonde.

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