Publisher: DC Comics (Jinxworld Imprint)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Release Date: 5th September 2018
DC is doing some ambitious things with its various imprints and story arcs, not always successfully but mostly quite interestingly. Certainly, the creative freedom that they are affording some big-ticket names is leading to some exciting work. Here, we have another story from the prolific pen of Bendis, under the DC pseudo creator-owned Jinxworld imprint. To see him teaming up with David Mack once more – his covers for ‘Alias’ were what drew me to pick up a Marvel comic for the first time in years – was exciting enough, but to see them tackling an off-beat spy story had me a bit too keen for my own good.
At the same time, I was wary: could it really live up to the teases they had dropped? Unequivocally, yes. This is a breathtaking, beautiful comic, with a story at its heart that will make you smile warmly, wonder cautiously, and pause for thought. You’ll go back and reread it, reexamine it, and want to do so again.
The premise is fairly straightforward, told from the perspective of a comic-book artist hawking his covers at conventions (neatly juxtaposing two radically different styles), when a mysterious, glamorous femme starts buying all of his original art. She’s charming, elegant – and a self-admitted spy. You very quickly begin to wonder whether this is a ruse, a honey-trap, or something else entirely. It’s a great mystery, not like a hard-boiled, sweaty post-modern noir of Brubaker, but a more nuanced, and somehow endearing story. I suspect Bendis is building up to a colossal stylistic bait-and-switch, more Hitchcock than Miller, but for now the reader has been suckered into the story of the mystery woman, Julia – much like the artist himself.
Mack’s art is, of course, staggering. The artist within ‘Cover’ is working on a shogunate comic, and the images from this that intersperse the narrative have shades of Mack’s work on Dark Horse’s Kabuki, with more than a nod to Goseki Kojima. His hypnotic water-colour style blurs the line between “fine” art and comic art, and with the character designs in this likewise blurring between styles we’re never quite sure which fiction we should be trying to believe – again, adding depth and meaning to the wider story. The final page, achingly anticipated as the art subtly shifts is a thing of exceptional beauty and brilliance, breaking out of layout and boundary without being self-conscious or annoyingly smart.
This sounds like a high-concept analysis of a high-concept comic. It’s not meant to be. But it’s wonderful to see the creative team having the freedom to do something so exciting and unconventional with the form. Trust me, get in on the ground floor of this one. It’s going to be big.