Shots in the Dark (Ink and Drink Comics)

The locally-based Ink and Drink collective fires off a crime anthology that delves into our fair city’s sometimes seedy side.

 

104 pgs., B&W; $11.99
(W / A: Various; Edited by Bryan A. Hollerbach and Jason Green)
 
The guys and gals of Ink and Drink Comics—a mostly St. Louis-based crew recognizable by their ink-stained fingers and propensity to imbibe recreational beverages—are at it again. Response to their first collection, Spirits of St. Louis, was so positive that they’ve followed up with an anthology devoted to crime comics, appropriately titled Shots in the Dark.
 
There are 13 comics in Shots in the Dark, written and illustrated by 21 contributors. Some have a local connection, some do not, but taken as a whole the collection offers something to please almost any fan of the crime genre. Editors Bryan A. Hollerbach and Jason Green did their job well because the opening and closing comics are two of the strongest in the volume. "Slick," with story and art by Kyle Morton, opens the volume with a noir-bathed tale about a guy who had a bit of bad luck then compounded his troubles with a morally-questionable decision which leads to an ending to which neither O. Henry or the MPAA could object. You can feel the chill in his art (the story takes place during a blizzard) and the choice to reveal little of the protagonist’s face suggests that he could be anyone, even you.
 
"An Accounting,” written and illustrated by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz, closes Shots in the Dark with an excerpt from his upcoming graphic novel The Revengers. It works well as a stand-alone comic and the noir influence is strong in this one also, from the urban setting and persistent use of voice-over to the moral ambiguity of the characters. The frames resemble storyboards for a film and Ruiz’s art creates a mood of heightened realism, combining squiggle-vision black and white outlines with fine screens for shading while presenting characters and scenes so familiar they have almost become archetypes. Use of these familiar elements allows Ruiz to tell his story within a fictional world recognizable to his readers and heightens the effect when he diverges from the expected script.
 
Several other artists make extensive use of screens, something more often associated these days with shojo manga and high school romances (not that there’s anything wrong with that) rather than gunfire and corpses. I’m going to venture a guess that the reason is that screens recall half-tone reproductions and are intended to give the comics that gritty, 1940s newspaper feel. Whatever. It works.
 
For local interest, you can’t beat "Break on Thru (to the other side)," a true-to-life tale recalled by Jason Green and re-created by Justin Crouse. The story is about a break-in at Streetside Records (RIP) on Delmar and the frustrations of dealing with a police department who did not share the clerks’ sense of urgency about catching the bad guy. "Eads Landing,” written and lettered by Carlos Gabriel Ruiz and illustrated by Jim Mosley, is also set in St. Louis but in 1904 (with lots of local references and inside jokes—how many can you spot?) but doesn’t work as well for me. The story is basically an extended ethnic joke mixed with a lot of tough talk, and while the stylized, black-heavy frames might work well with a different story, with this one they just feel static.
 
"A Small Price to Pay," written by Steve Higgins and illustrated by Nick Main, tells a tale with a twist and makes dramatic use of dark tones. Pure black shows up more often than pure white and the darker shades of grey are the predominant tone. Although, not to give anything away, when the tone of the story shifts so does the tone of the frames. Integration of story and art! Yes!
 
I liked the approach of Mike Harvey, writer and illustrator of "Funky P.I." which uses extremely stylized art to tell a story which could have served as an outline for a 1970s Blaxploitation flick. However the art seem to have been planned for a smaller format, perhaps a mini-comic, and as presented in Shots in the Dark many of the frames have too much empty white space, so much so that they sometimes look like pages from a coloring book.
 
I can’t go through every story or this review will start to resemble a book and just remember—my favorites may or may not be anyone else’s favorites. So no hurt feelings if you’re a writer or artist who didn’t get mentioned and no pre-judgments if you’re a reader. If you enjoy crime stories told graphically, you should buy a copy and check them out for yourself.
 
You can see previews of Shots in the Dark from the Ink and Drink web site (http://inkanddrinkcomics.com/) which also offers copies of this collection as well as their previous effort Spirits of St. Louis for sale. | Sarah Boslaugh
 
Ink and Drink Comics will be holding a special release party for Shots in the Dark at Star Clipper (6392 Delmar in the U. City Loop) on April 13th from 5 to 8 PM. The even includes a signing by over a dozen of the book’s contributors. Click here for more information.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply