Tuesday, April 4, 2017

DASH - The Case of the Mysterious Zita Makara

It's not often (if at all) that I will review an ongoing comic series, mainly because I would have to keep coming back over and over to review the various stories throughout the series.  However, after reading the first four issues of DASH by writer Dave Ebersole and artist Delia Gable, well, I couldn't let it go by without saying something.

Dashell Malone - - or "Dash" as he's known to his friends - - is a small-time detective in the big city of Los Angeles back in the days when femme fatales were as deadly as they were beautiful, cops were none too keen on private dicks, and the mysteries always involved someone dying.  And from the moment the mysterious Zita Makara steps into Dash's office (which, coincidentally, is were our story begins), the reader knows she is going to be at the heart of this mystery.

Ebersole sets the stage for a great noir tale as Zita begs for Dash's help in obtaining a package for her.  He decides to think it over before making up his mind on whether to help her - a decision that turns out to be very costly!  It isn't until nearly half-way through the first issue that readers find out Dash is actually gay - meeting his male lover on the sly, since being gay was not tolerated in the time the story is set.  However, all his worlds come crashing together by the end of the first issue when Dash discovers his lover dead, yet another victim of the strange deaths occurring in Los Angeles recently - and finds the earring of the mysterious Zita Makara at the scene of the crime!

Thus begins Dash's investigation into the femme fatale that cost him the man he loved.  Only, finding her won't be as easy as he thought.  And not everyone he meets is who they appear to be.  And sometimes, the most unusual of all explanations could quite possibly be the truth - after all, the truth is stranger than fiction, isn't it?

The characters in this comic are diverse and very believable.  Dash, himself, is strong, self-reliant, yet sensitive and caring.  He has a great relationship with his secretary, Cindy Crenshaw, who, quite frankly, may be my favorite character in the series.  She is sarcastic, playful, yet 100% loyal to her boss, and the banter that occurs between her and her boss is pretty much the same way me and my boss communicate! Then there's Officer Sal McGillicutty, Dash's only friend left on the police force.  He has sympathy for Dash's plight and maintains his friendship with him, despite the rest of the force viewing Dash as a degenerate. Such as Detective Bruno Fernez, who is a bigoted, hateful cop who would like nothing better than to see Dash rot in a prison cell for no other reason than the fact that he is gay.  (Issue 2 has a very dramatic scene with Dash and the homophobic Detective Fernez, where we discover that while the force may not like Dash because he is gay, they have Fernez even more simply because he's a total @$$#*!%.)

In these first four issues, we not only get the set up for a unique mystery involving a centuries old mummy, a descendant from Egyptian royalty, and a dark power being used to revive a long forgotten son, but we also get an opportunity to see Dash face the fact that his lover was not exactly on the up and up with him and was hiding secrets that not only cost him his life, but may ultimately be the only thing that can prevent any more murders.

Ebersole knows how to provide the perfect issue breaks, ending each chapter (issue) with a great cliffhanger (like the old serials from yester-year) that leaves you desperately wanting for more.  The plot is face paced, yet not so fast as to not allow us to get to know each character (even some minor ones who are clearly going to play a much bigger role in the overall story).  Ebersole has the noir feel down just right, with Dash narrating the story like in the old black and white films.  The only drawback I can see at all from this series is the fact that after reading the first four issues together like this, I'm going to have to wait for who knows how long before issue 5 and future issues come out!

Oh, and did I mention that even though this is a comic / mystery series with a gay protagonist, there is absolutely no gratuitous sex / nudity?  I am so impressed and so thankful that Ebersole did not stoop to the level that most authors seem to find necessary with gay fiction to see his work.  Do Dash and Plink kiss?  Yes, of course they do, they love each other.  Do they end up in bed together?  In the first issue, yes, they do - but the reader only sees the after glow, with Dash and Plink waking up the next morning, fully covered.  It provides the same, if not better, affect for the reader, in that we see the characters actually have feelings for one another, and it's not just an act of animal lust used to titillate the reader for a few moments.  So, thank you, Ebersole, for proving that gay fiction can be great and enjoyable without the explicit sex.

RATING:  10 tail-eating snake necklaces out of 10 for a great detective tale combining the noir and supernatural genres seamlessly with great characters and even greater storytelling!

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