The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 50 | Blue Estate Vol. 1 TPB review

Leaving Proof 50 | Blue Estate Vol. 1 TPB review
Published on Thursday, September 22, 2011 by
Blue Estate Vol. 1
  • (Image Comics, 2011; 120 pages, collects Blue Estate issues 1–5 originally published April–August, 2011)
  • Original Story by: Viktor Kalvachev and Kosta Yanev
  • Script by: Andrew Osborne
  • Art by: Viktor Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley, and Paul Maybury
  • Art Direction by: Viktor Kalvachev
  • Cover, Colours, and Design by: Viktor Kalvachev
  • List Price: $12.99 (US)/$16.99 (CDN)
  • Full Disclosure: This is a review of a press proof digital copy of the book provided by the publisher

Viktor Kalvachev is quickly becoming one of my favourite comic book creators. I thought his Image Comics debut (a reprint of a 2007 Heavy Metal magazine serial) was one of the strongest seen at a major publisher in recent years, and he more than exceeds the promise hinted at in his earlier work with Blue Estate, his latest project.

Blue Estate is styled as a fast-paced crime thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Think Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch or Garth Ennis’ Barracuda storyline in Punisher MAX. The book, set largely in Los Angeles, is populated by an interesting cast of characters: an overweight private detective trying to impress his hero cop dad, a middle-aged B-movie actor (who looks suspiciously like Steven Seagal) secretly in bed with Russian organized crime, the actor’s wife (who has a few secrets of her own), a hilariously over-the-top Mafia tough guy, a nebbish mob accountant and his stripper girlfriend, among others. To be honest, there isn’t much to go on as far as the plot revealing itself, even as we’re five issues into the series. “Decompression” has become a dirty word in comics these days because of its inexpert use by less-talented artists and writers, but in Blue Estate‘s case, it is effectively utilised by Kalvachev and his cohorts to build characterization and set up what’s looking to be a double-cross and a messy and violent confrontation of epic proportions. Andrew Osborne’s dialogue is smart, funny, and snappy (again, it’s very much reminiscent of the lines you’d hear in a Guy Ritchie caper), although I thought a couple of the pop culture references were somewhat ill-considered and instantly dated (heck, I’d almost forgotten about all the tiger blood nonsense from a few months back).

Kalvachev shares art duties with Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley, and Paul Maybury, all capable artists in their own right. Their more graphically stylised renditions—I was immediately put in mind of Jack Cole’s Playboy work and Kyle Baker’s art on Special Forces—of the book’s setting and cast stand in sharp contrast with Kalvachev’s more naturalistically grounded depictions. The strong disparity in styles is complementary for the most part, although the effect can be jarring in the rare instances when the shift from one artist to another isn’t punctuated by an accompanying change in scene or mood. That being said, all the artists, diverse as their styles are, remain on-model with the characters, which speaks volumes about their technical skills (it helps that their “model sheets” were actually clay sculptures made by Kalvachev, as shown in the book’s post-script section). With Kalvachev providing the book’s overall art direction, the storytelling and pacing remain consistent throughout the book, even with the rotating artists.

All in all, I found Blue Estate Vol. 1 to be a thoroughly enjoyable read and a visual delight. Viktor Kalvachev continues to impress as an artist and storyteller and I can’t wait to see where he takes this series.

Very highly recommended.

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