Shuddertown #1


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Shuddertown #1


  • Words: Nick Spencer
  • Art: Adam Geen
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Mar 24, 2010

Writer Nick Spencer tackles noir in his third series from Image/Shadowline, after Existence and Forgetless. In this third go around, Shuddertown, he focuses on Detective Isaac Hernandez and his current slate of cases, all seemingly related in one very macabre detail: the prime suspects have been deceased for years.

When we meet Detective Hernandez, he’s battered, bruised, and fresh from an on the job injury. The details of said injury are glossed over other than it seemingly being from an act of heroism. We learn this from a colleague who’s meeting our hero at a gentlemen’s club. Hernandez just can’t wrap his mind around these murders and needs someone to tell him he’s not crazy.

Spencer uses the tried and true gritty voice over as our guide through the action and Isaac’s motivations. Although it’s sometimes a clichéd trope aligned to this genre, his heavy and conversational tone comes off as more of a mood setter and really works. Much like how he used the stream of ‘Tweets’ in Forgetless as a form of thought balloons, he uses the voiceover as a story device rather than a crutch. And it works.

Making the hard-boiled words pop even more are the stunningly bleak yet colorful work of Adam Geen, who pencils and colors the issue. His style is anything but foreign to the eyes, but at the same time refreshing. It's as if he’s channeling Alex Maleev on layouts, David Mack on colors, and a little bit of Tony Harris in the character designs, but not copying any of them.

There were a few panels needing another gander due to the some of Geen’s choices on depicting this issues little bits of action. At one point, I was unable to clearly see if the antagonist was being taken to the ground, or someone tackling Isaac. The next page clears it up, but it’s an example of a muddy transition that could use some clarification. Overall though, his style is a success and fits this story wonderfully. We can only hope that subsequent issues get sharper.

This first chapter merely sets up the characters and central conflict, but doesn’t truly settle on an overall genre, which can prove to be strength in the creators’ execution of the material. With such a vague and intriguing beginning, one can postulate that this series can take us anywhere. There’s a clear overall feeling of noir, but small hints at something supernatural or cerebral sneak their way in, ramping up the stakes subtly and increasing the reader’s need to find out.

This stylish crime thriller does not feel like same Nick Spencer responsible for the Pulp Fiction-esque, teenage shenanigans of Forgetless, which is ultimately a compliment. He is proving to be a versatile writer, not easily pegged with singular style. Three books in and the only connective tissue in his stories and the way they’re told is a consistency of quality.  Some books more enjoyable than others, but still worthy reads.

You need to stop this, Mr. Spencer. We just might get used to it.

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