The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 114 | Choker, Vol. 1 review

Leaving Proof 114 | Choker, Vol. 1 review
Published on Friday, May 11, 2012 by

The much-delayed Choker mini-series from writer Ben McCool and artist Ben Templesmith is finally collected in this month’s Choker, Vol. 1. Read the full Leaving Proof review to get the lowdown on the tech noir thriller.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Entertaining and solidly-crafted tech noir story with a decidedly humourous bent.
  • Snappy dialogue.
  • Stylized rendering and character designs make for a unique aesthetic.

Cons:

  • Nondescript setting.
Publication Details
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Story by: Ben McCool
  • Art/Design by: Ben Templesmith
  • Lettering by: Tom B. Long (fonts supplied by Comicraft)
  • Format: 160-page full-colour trade paperback; reprints Choker #s 1–6, originally published in single digital magazine format in 2010, 2011, and 2012 by Image Comics.
  • List Price: $16.99 US (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
Cover and Interior Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

  

  

Full Review

Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner casts a long and virtually inescapable shadow on the tech noir genre. This isn’t to say that the film is solely responsible for crystallizing the features we now associate with tech noir as it was, after all, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and was strongly influenced by the Dan O’Bannon and Moebius comics short story The Long Tomorrow. But the film is so overwhelmingly popular that it is almost inevitable that all modern tech noir reference it, overtly or subtly, in terms of atmosphere and most especially, visual design.

Choker‘s story revolves around Johnny Jackson, a bitter ex-cop working as a private investigator who is drawn into a web of criminal intrigue, police corruption, and drug-fueled vampires. Writer Ben McCool’s use of first-person perspective narration is almost a given owing to the genre, but he does ditch the typically solemn and dour narrative style associated with tech noir for a tale with a humourous, “mad ideas” bent that wouldn’t be out of place in a late 1970s/early 1980s 2000 AD prog. The plot involving Jackson’s investigation of a string of brutal murders in Shotgun City has its fair share of twists, turns, and reversals but for me, it is only memorable for serving as a device to propel McCool’s snappy and creatively profane dialogue or some of artist Ben Templesmith’s more outrageous visuals.

Templesmith doesn’t stray too far from the tropes established by the aforementioned Blade Runner and The Long Tomorrow. The book’s aesthetic is oppressively dark and gloomy, although the British illustrator’s stylized rendering technique and character designs lend a unique appearance to the art that looks somewhat like a blend of the work of artists such as Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, and Ashley Wood. The storytelling is clear for the most part, although Templesmith does seem to employ straight-ahead close-up shots almost to excess—some pages feature static “talking heads” panels almost exclusively—and this occasionally undermines the panel-to-panel flow of the action and obscures the spatial relationships between characters, backgrounds, and props in certain scenes.

McCool and Templesmith seem determined to establish Shotgun City as a character in itself, but due to what I suspect is a genericization inherent in their adherence to established tech noir design, the city comes off as largely nondescript and interchangeable with any number of fictional tech noir settings commonly seen in comics, film, and videogames.

More than anything though, Choker makes for quite entertaining and occasionally gripping reading. Even in situations that veer dangerously close to coming off as terribly contrived, it’s easy to root for Johnny Jackson, a lovable loser who is not without a sense of danger and mystery.

The “Choker, Vol. 1″ trade paperback is on sale now

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