The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 36 | “Old City Blues” TPB review

Leaving Proof 36 | “Old City Blues” TPB review
Published on Sunday, July 17, 2011 by
Old City Blues
  • (Archaia Entertainment, 2011; 120 pages, collects Old City Blues # 1-4, originally published in installments from 30 April 2010 to 30 July 2010 on the world wide web at
  • Story, Art, and Lettering: Giannis Milonogiannis
  • Cover Price: $14.95
Full Disclosure: This is a review of a press proof digital copy of the book provided by the publisher

Originally a loose concept and setting (a “throwaway story,” according to the afterword) around which writer/artist Giannis Milonogiannis crafted art samples for submission to comic book publishers, Old City Blues eventually made the transition from a collection of half-formed story ideas to a full-fledged online webcomic, with the first issue debuting on April 30, 2010. And now here we are, the trade paperback collecting all four issues of the black & white webcomic ready to hit retailers’ shelves on July 20, almost a year to the day after the final issue appeared on the web. If nothing else, Milonogiannis’ Old City Blues is a testament to how tenacity and wisely taking advantage of the free forum provided by the Internet can lead to getting one’s creator-owned comics published.

There’s no great conceit behind the book’s story or aesthetic. At its core, Old City Blues is a fairly straightforward murder-mystery: Set in the year 2048 in the city of “New Athens,” the story follows the adventures of Special Police Division X detective Solano and his associates as they try to uncover the truth behind the murder of the president of the powerful Hayashi Corporation. Old City Blues comfortably inhabits the post-William Gibson cyberpunk milieu and freely draws visual inspiration from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Masamune Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell.

Milonogiannis notes in the trade paperback’s illustrated afterword that

There was never a plan as to how I’d release [Old City Blues]. I just felt like making the thing. The idea was to write a story based on what I felt like drawing and to channel all the stuff I loved as a kid.

The book, in its writing, art, and even its lettering, reflects that spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment, nostalgia-infused approach. Its contents have the characteristic of being rough-hewn but perfectly functional. The dialogue, though somewhat unremarkable and loaded with its fair share of groaners and clichés, does a decent enough job of driving the plot forward. Milonogiannis’ line art and overall rendering (somewhat reminiscent of Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon’s work) could use more refinement, but the panel-to-panel storytelling is especially solid. The hand-lettered word balloons are a nice touch, although as with the line art, more clarity would have helped immensely. Still, within the quasi-genre of free webcomics, I would say that it’s one of the more technically competent ones I’ve encountered in terms of the traditional comic book creation skill of using sequential art to tell a story. There’s embedded meta-irony in a webcomic looking so obviously handcrafted and organic, although whether or not this is a deliberate aspect of the project is open to question.

I find it somewhat difficult assessing the trade paperback’s overall merits in a way that would be completely fair, given its origins as a free webcomic. While normally cost plays a very, very small role in how I evaluate the books sent to me for review, in this case, where the book’s primary contents are also freely available online on an authorized website to anyone with a working Internet connection, it becomes difficult for me to recommend an outright purchase of the printed product, even if I were to consider that many readers are averse to reading comics on a computer monitor. The trade paperback does have an illustrated afterword and a bonus back-up story, features that are not available on the Old City Blues website, but to me, their inclusion is hardly worth the book’s $14.95 cover price. Instead, I find that I’d rather direct potential readers to Milonogiannis’ Old City Blues webcomics site.

Make no mistake, though: despite his relative inexperience, Giannis Milonogiannis is the goods. He has a firm grasp of the fundamentals of the medium and he’s getting better all the time. His current webcomic, Aptera, already looks light years ahead of Old City Blues as far as the art is concerned. If he keeps this up, I don’t think he’ll need to give away his work for free for much longer.

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