Liar’s Kiss (Top Shelf)

A detective is on the run when his dame’s husband turns up dead in this noir Raymond Chandler-ish noir story.

 

120 pgs. B&W; $14.95 hardcover
(W: Eric Skillman; A: Jhomar Soriano)
 
Nick Archer is hired to find out if Abbey Kincaid is cheating on her wealthy husband, and somewhere along the way he decides to make sure she is by taking her to bed himself. Any concern Nick and Abbey share of Johnny Kincaid discovering their tryst is forgotten when he’s found with his brains splattered all over his bed sheets. Now Nick is dodging the cops and a mysterious figure stalking him in the shadows while trying to prove his lover’s innocence in Liar’s Kiss.
 
Eric Skillman tells a lightly updated noir detective story reminiscent of Raymond Chandler. With the exception of a few pop culture references and visual cues, Liar’s Kiss could easily be set in an earlier era. The case in which Archer finds himself mired – a rich temptress dumpster-diving for romance, a powerful business man with more skeletons in his closet than the deck of a Disney pirate ship, and a pair of impatient cops gut-punching leads out of the protagonist – could easily be something straight out of Philip Marlowe’s case files. Like Marlowe, Archer’s strengths seem to lie more in his ability to stir up trouble and take his licks than in deductive reasoning. There’s similar clever verbal sparring between Archer and his antagonists, though it doesn’t quite reach the level of Marlowe’s brutish poetry.
 
Skillman delivers good and suspenseful storytelling, though the storyoccasionally suffers half-hearted attempts at bad humor as well as forgotten plot points and poorly chosen story elements that don’t hold up to scrutiny. The choice to set the story in contemporary times is strange, and the only reason I can see for it is to stop Archer from becoming a complete Marlowe clone.
 
Jhomar Soriano’s visual opening of Liar’s Kiss is perfectly cinematic with the credits accompanying an intense sex scene; clearly gratuitous but elegantly so. Soriano’s style seems pleasantly reminiscent of another artist known for his crime comics: Criminal’s Sean Phillips. The art is usually great, but Soriano’s biggest weakness seems to be in rendering Nick Archer’s face, and of course it’s the face you see more than any other in the book. There are times when parts of his face are disproportionately large. Soriano’s use of single lines to represent Archer’s facial hair stands out strangely in these instances.
 
Liar’s Kiss is far from perfect, but overall it’s an enjoyable and exciting mystery. The ending delivers a surprise twist that begs for a second reading to enjoy noticing things you probably wouldn’t catch the first time through. It’s certainly above and beyond most – if not all – of the recent crime offerings from DC/Vertigo, but still less than I hoped. | Mick Martin

 

 
Click here for a preview of Liar’s Kiss, courtesy of Top Shelf.

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