Saturday, February 24, 2018

Normandy Gold - a Hard Case Crime Comic

Titan Comics seems to be have a big hit on their hands with its "Hard Case Crime" line of titles.  I gave it a shot with the Peepland mini-series, which turned out to be really good, so I took a chance with a second mini-series, and I have to say - I was just as impressed with this one.

Set in the '70s exploitation style of writing and art, Normany Gold is not only the title of the book, but it is the name of the title character.  Normandy is a small town sheriff who heads to Washington, D.C. to find her missing sister.  When her sister turns up dead, murdered, Normandy takes it upon herself to search for her sister's killer, even if that means going undercover as an escort for Washington's most respected (and used) madame.  She quickly finds out that Washington is filled with a lot of secrets, and that a lot of high-powered men will do pretty much anything to keep those secrets hidden - even if it means killing!

Writers Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin provide a really great murder mystery with a tough-as-nails protagonist who will do anything to get the job done. They manage to give the reader the feel for the '70s, with the macho men who are sexist pigs to the end, strong-willed women who are still trying to gain that equal footing, and the government wheelers-and-dealers who seem to live conscience-free and throw money wherever it is needed to maintain their power.  Despite her tough exterior, Normandy is a character the reader will not necessarily identify with, but you will definitely feel for her and will be rooting for her to catch the killer, despite the things she has to do in order to get there.  And believe me, some of it is NOT pretty!

Steve Scott's art is absolutely gorgeous.  The people are real, the clothing and backgrounds are time-period appropriate, and each page flows so smoothly, it comes across nearly cinematic.  The expressions he captures on the characters' faces are spot on, and about the only complaint I actually have is the fact that there are a number of scenes with full female nudity, yet with every scene where a man is nude, Scott conveniently finds a way to "shelter" the reader from actually seeing any full frontal male.  It's the double standard that seems rampant in our society - yet, I can be forgiving, since the comic is told in a '70s style, and let's face it - back then, female nudity in these type of films and/or books was the norm, and seeing a man naked was simply not done.  So, I suppose, it actually keeps the book on par for its intended goal.

I will say that Abbott and Gaylin kept me guessing through most of the story as to who the murderer would turn out to be - and when the ultimate reveal is made, it does come as a bit of a surprise.  But, it makes sense, and like with any good exploitation film (is that an oxy-moron) from that era, the ending is anything but happy or tidy; rather, it resolves the mystery, but it leaves the characters in a state of limbo (as well as the reader, who has to wonder, just what happens to these characters next?).

I do hope that Titan Comics continues to publish more of these type of crime noir stories, as they are not your typical continuity-heavy, super-hero comic tales, but rather, they are stories with a lot of meat and really make you think.

9 poison-filled syringes out of 10 for taking us back in time and reminding us that even 40 years ago, women could be tougher-than-tough when they needed to be!

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