Review – Russell Mark Olson’s Gateway City

St. Louis, 1925. A melting pot of races and cultures, a world of prohibition-era underworld gangs, and the world of tough-as-nails PI’s like “Lundy” Lundquist.

While Lundy is working an angle on a case involving the inexplicable cooperation of two gangs that are sworn enemies, he discovers that things are not what they seem and that there are dangers hiding in the shadows of St. Louis that are not of this world. And, unless he and his associates can put a stop to them, they’re not going to be hiding in the shadows much longer.

With the second volume of Gateway City currently funding on Kickstarter until the 31st of August, I thought I’d take the opportunity to spread the word about this truly fantastic series by Russell Mark Olson.

Gateway City is a quarterly publication released in a surprisingly satisfying newsprint format, and if you have the opportunity I would definitely recommend grabbing this format first. I say first because what I’ve seen of the individual “issues”, they’re something you’re going to want to cherish and take out on special occasions. The obvious solution is to buy the collected editions as they come out, which is exactly what I’m doing thanks to the fact that volume 1 is available as an add-on during the current KS campaign.

How do you best describe Gateway City? If you think of all the classic Private Detective thrillers of the 1930s & ‘40s, those incredibly cool detectives and gangsters played by the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, James Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson. Then think of the old Dick Tracy comics, think of the early Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, and John Carter, and then mash them all together, and you’re somewhere close to just how fantastic this series is.

I am not going to tell you a lot more about the contents of the first two volumes because firstly, I came to the series late and have only just read the whole of the first volume, and secondly, well frankly it would just spoil it for you. What I can do is tell you that Russell Mark Olson is a superb writer, and what I have read of the series so far has been so much fun, and so exciting that I genuinely cannot wait to get my hands on the next volume.

Clearly this isn’t the first time that science fiction and the 1920s/30s have come together, but it’s a long time since I’ve really been thrilled by this crossover of genres, and this really does thrill me. The backbone of this story is a noir-gangster thriller and it’s done really well. There’s drama, tension, intrigue and honestly, I’d have bought into the series based on that alone, but there is also a sci-fi element to the story that blends in so well that, while the alien interlopers are clearly well, alien, and outré, their introduction doesn’t jar or take you out of the story. I think I sat there and went, “oh cool, one of the gangs is made up of aliens” and went back to business as usual.

I was born in the early 1970s, and by the time I was reading comics, I wasn’t reading Marvel or even DC, I was reading Commando, Battle, 2000 AD, Scream, and Eagle. I love my adventure and fantasy stories but I have never been a superhero fan. I was brought up on reruns of Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers, Saturday afternoon detective movies and Westerns. The heroes I was drawn to might have been thrown into fantastic situations, but they had those human vulnerabilities that we can relate to, facing mortal peril and relying on their wits and fists to get themselves out of trouble, save the world, win the girl and not have a ‘get out of jail free card.’ Gateway City floods my senses with the nostalgia of those memories.

If the writing is a nostalgia trip for me then the artwork really hammers it home. I absolutely love the artwork in this series, it ticks all of the boxes in bringing to a detective-noir series, while (as previously mentioned) fully embracing the alien and the outré seamlessly. The overall design is great, whether it’s the sprawling city, the skies and trenches of World War One, or a shady club full of aliens and gangster. The character design is also superb, there’s some great ‘monster movie’ moments. The tension and drama seep out of the panels, and the action scenes are delivered like those of the golden age of action and adventure movies.

Hopefully you’re still with me, and I won’t keep you much longer I promise, I’d just like to finish up by saying that this is one of my new favourite things, it’s created by a genuinely talented, nice guy and I can’t recommend enough that you take the chance and back Gateway City.

Rating: 5/5.

The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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