the Bargain – Graphic Novel
Written by Kara Barrett (@kbarrett)
Art & Cover by J.C. Grande
Editors – Kirsten Thompson & Kara Barrett
Review by Joey Braccino
“With only hours left to break a pact for his soul, Jackson Connolly attempts one final, desperate gamble at salvation. It’s a journey that will take him from the backwoods of ghostly Louisiana to the seductive lights of a 1950s New Orleans burlesque club. Adventure and moody noir fuse in this supernatural tale of ghosts, hellhounds and hoodoo magic.”
The Bargain is an original, Kickstarted, self-published graphic novel from Kara Barrett and JC Grande. Billed as “a supernatural graphic novel set in the 1950s,” The Bargain blends suspense and horror into a fascinating fantasy comic. While not necessarily as gritty or grimy as a Fatale or Hellblazer, The Bargain does capitalize on its 1950s setting to tell a more classic noir story. Protagonist Jackson Connolly has the anti-hero swagger of a Bogart or Grant, and the New Orleans backdrops dress the book in Blues and willows. Writer Kara Barrett establishes the world of The Bargain quickly and effectively over the course of her short 90ish pages, and the ultimate result is a high-tempo tale that is equal parts mystery, ghost story, and race-against-the-clock thriller.
The premise is straightforward: Jackson Connolly sold his soul and now the Hellhounds are coming to collect. He’s spent the last 10 years trying to find a way out, and, unless he does, tonight’s the last night of his life. Mystical conjurer (and ghost) Auntie points him toward a former Blues pianist who previously got out of his deal, but first Connolly has to save the life of Auntie’s living descendent, Lisette. The traumatic, brutal sequence of Lisette’s assault is the cold open to the graphic novel, and quickly raises the stakes of the book past simple magic tricks and smokey jazz clubs. Barrett deftly weaves these intense, disturbing elements throughout her story—Auntie’s history as a slave, Connolly’s mother’s gambling addiction, mid-20th century racism, etc.—which, in some ways, haunt the book moreso than the ghosts and demons. The Bargain’s appeal isn’t so much its supernatural elements so much as the presence of those elements in the otherwise clearly established, clearly represented context of 1950s South.
J.C. Grande’s aesthetic is reminiscent of Michael Gaydos’ work on Brian Michael Bendis’ ALIAS. Again, while not as gritty as Gaydos’ work, Grande’s moody lines and solid color palette perfectly captures Barrett’s story. Grande strikes the perfect balance between noir naturalism and supernatural horror. The Hellhounds are particularly terrifying, as is the dramatic reveal at the end of this volume.
Check it! Kara Barrett’s The Bargain is a suspenseful ghost story driven by a nuanced protagonist and a rich Southern setting. The end of Volume 1 is a shocking resolution to the story, and it promises an exciting, fascinating new arc for our characters!
PS – You can also check out the Kickstarter page for The Bargain, which features some of the original drafts of some of the pages. It’s always fascinating to see what changed and what was removed; there seems to be an entire character that was pulled from Volume 1, so there definitely seems to be material for the next chapter in Jackson and Lisette’s story!!!