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Moody.

Moody.

Chin Music #1

Written by Steve Niles

Illustrated by Tony Harris

Letters by Bill Tortolini

Review by Joey Braccino

So let me start this review of Steve Niles and Tony Harris’ Chin Music by sharing with you all the Image synopsis for this brand-new, creator-owned series:

  • Shaw is a man on the run and lost in time. Fleeing ancient enemies, Shaw finds himself in prohibition-era Chicago surrounded by gangsters and demons alike and caught between law enforcement and the local supernatural underground. CHIN MUSIC is a tale of mysticism and violence like nothing you’ve experienced before. (Read more at www.imagecomics.com/comics/5501/Chin-Music-1)

I share this synopsis with you because it certainly shares with us more information than the debut issue of Chin Music does in all of its 22 pages.

Seriously, by issue’s end, I have the barest inkling of what is actually going on aside from mystical bullets fired by banged-up fedora-wearing private eyes, flying demons who literally rend flesh from people’s bodies, and gangster mafioso’s with portly faces chomping on cigars.

Double moody.

Double moody.

And I love it.

Really. All of those aspects that I did manage to pick up on are the exact reasons why I picked up this book in the first place. 30 Days of Night co-creator Steve Niles augments his deft handle of horror comics with the throwback pulp-detective tropes of a mid-20th Century noir classic. Actually, since we’re on the subject of mid-20th Century films, Chin Music in many ways blurs the line between urban detective dramas and Far East fantasy-adventures that used to fill the moviehouses for Sunday matinees. The globe-trotting adventurism of Niles script takes us from the gritty underbelly of Chicago all the way to a shadowy tent in Egypt, with a lot of cigarette smoke and gory violence in the between.

Still, Niles is more interested in setting the mood and giving us a taste of the horror/supernatural action that will most likely fill out the rest of this series rather than actually setting up the story or conflict clearly. Exposition? Who needs it when we’ve got magic bullets!!??

Tony Harris (of last Fall’s nigh-unforgiveable “Tony Harris Hates Women” Facebook fiasco) delivers that same naturalistic aesthetic that made his work on Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina so successful. Of course, this time Niles’ script demands more of a mystical bent to the whole comic. Harris wisely sticks to colors and shadow rather than going full-on monster-mash (so far), depending on stark reds and grainy backgrounds to achieve the sense of dread haunting these pages. There are also some fascinating choices in terms of the paneling; Harris weaves in and out of these Art Deco frames, further evoking the 1920s setting. Really gorgeous work here that compensates for the utter lack of exposition or information.

Verdict

Worth a look. The extraordinary lack of story set-up here may deter some readers looking for cohesion in this debut issue of Chin Music, but Steve Niles and Tony Harris do deliver in spades when it comes to establishing the feel of their Prohibition-era, gangster-horror, matinee-serial romp. If anything, pick it up to marvel at Harris’ gorgeous artwork and hope to Cthulu that Niles has more story to tell next issue!!!

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