Overview

Netherworld #1

Review

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Netherworld #1

Credits

  • Words: Bryan Edward Hill and Rob Levin
  • Art: Tony Shasteen
  • Colors: Dave McCaig and Lee Loughridge
  • Publisher: Top Cow/Image Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: May 11, 2011

Reviewing Netherworld #1 was one of the more difficult assignments I’ve taken on since joining the staff of Broken Frontier. After finishing the issue, I kept asking myself what I could say about this comic that I hadn’t said a hundred times before about a hundred other comics. Unfortunately, the answer is absolutely nothing.

I never jumped on the Top Cow boat back in the day. JMS’ Rising Stars and Midnight Nation notwithstanding, Marc Silvestri’s imprint always felt more like a vanity press rehashing tried and true concepts from past work than an actual publisher interested in pushing the boundaries of the medium. Recently, as comics become ever more intertwined with other forms of entertainment, such as movies and video games, Top Cow’s focus seems to have shifted toward developing their properties for eventual distribution in other, more lucrative media. It’s smart business but really doesn’t contribute to the health of the industry or medium in any substantial way. For Top Cow, print feels more like a brief pit stop during a sprint to supposedly bigger and better things. The problem with this approach is that the actual comics acting as springboards into other media, become second fiddle to whatever high profile development deal is the true goal, as both studio and publisher gamble the ends will justify the means. More often than not, the end result is just plain shitty comics.

Netherworld #1 is a case in point. Built around a retread plot starring a down-on-his-luck private dick, who’s been hired by two different clients to find the same woman, Netherworld #1 claims to be a modern pulp-horror crime hybrid. Featuring the mob, vampires, hot babes, and the aforementioned prerequisite cynical P.I., Netherworld really just reads like Witchblade without the Witchblade.

Although, Tony Shasteen does an admirable job creating an atmospheric visual tone for the book with crisp linework and excellent spotting of the blacks, his style seems like a bit of a poor fit for the subject matter, lacking that certain robustness typical of most pulp-influenced books. There just isn’t enough texture in Shasteen’s style to evoke a true pulp feel, evident in a negative tension in the artwork as he struggled to achieve an emotional weight beyond his artistic maturity.

Overall, Netherworld #1 was a disappointing read but not unexpectedly so. I keep on giving Top Cow’s books a chance, hoping I’ll discover a gem amidst all the dross. The search continues, I suppose, but not until I feel sufficiently self-abusive to once again traverse the pale, diluted netherworld of Top Cow’s catalogue.

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