Written by Magnus Aspli
Illustrated by Emerson Dimaya
Letters by Nic J Shaw
Self-Published (via Kickstarter)
I love crime comics, and I especially like crime comics that get into the heart of noir storytelling, where characters are drawn in complicated shades of grey and decisions made have unintended consequences. It's clear that the creative team behind Spiral, a Kickstarter project that's successfully funded but is still open to pledges, understands the magic that makes noir work.
The Kickstarter is designed to fund the first issue, which is already completed, meaning backers won't have to wait on a promise of having the story they've pre-ordered being crafted, one of the main issues with comic-related Kickstarters. That was one of the things that made me interested in this one, beyond the premise. I was able to actually read the first issue, thanks to a copy for Aspli--and it's quite good.
The premise is a world in which there was a street-level hero who eventually disappears. It turns out he's the father of a scrappy, loose-canon type cop in the mold of Dirty Harry, Olivia. The hero doesn't want her stepping into his shoes, because he's worried she can't control herself and will get killed. Meanwhile, one of his former rogues is trying to hand the family business off to his son, and that's not going well for anyone involved. When Olivia discovers Dad's secret, she decides to take things into her own hands, at which point, things begin to...spiral.
It's a great introductory issue, grabbing the reader right away by showing Olivia'a character, then her conflict with her father, right down to the awkwardness of a cop learning her pop was out there taking the law into his own hands. It adds another layer to the already strained family dynamic, which is mixed in as the issue moves along. Similarly, the idea of how a new generation of villain wants to push the envelope and how that impacts on their life is compelling. The two storylines have echoes, and it will be interesting to see them play out across future issues, which hopefully will occur now that the first KS is about to fund.
The biggest problem Kickstarter comics projects have is that sometimes the art isn't up to what might be traditionally published. That's not the case here--Emerson Dimaya's work is perfectly aligned to do a noir setting. The establishing pages where we meet Olivia are covered in heavy black lines, but the individual figure work is clear. Olivia, her partner, and the perp all stand out against the backdrop that's meant to be more Gotham than Metropolis, to drop a superhero reference. When we move to Olivia's father, the same mood is retained thanks to the inks, but the coloring shift gives it a different light, casting him in pale pink instead of blue. It reminds of the work done by Lee Loughridge on Deadly Class, where the colors shift based on setting instead of the objects. Yet at the same time, the red of the villains' glasses pops, ala Dave Stewart's Hellboy. Dimaya clearly has influences from great artists, but uses them for his own purposes.
Circling back to the linework for a moment--it's interesting to see Dimaya again look at the work of others and use it to his liking. I can see some of Steve Lieber and Sean Phillips in the construction of the panels, but it doesn't look like a person trying hard to be one creator or the other. His layouts and movement of characters from panel to panel is as good as any professional working for the mainstream publishers (often better, frankly), and his characters emote along with their dialogue. When someone is angry, we see it. That should be storytelling 101, but it's getting to be a lost art.
I really enjoyed Spiral issue 1, and I hope that there are more to come. The biggest problem for an indie comic is sustaining momentum. Buying in now, when the goal is only "fund issue one" is that we don't get the rest of the series. However, the professionalism of the creative team, the willingness to complete the issue before the KS started, and the premise, give me a lot of hope and make me recommend taking a chance on it. But you need to hurry--the KS only has a little over two days left to go.