Thursday, July 3, 2014

Brit Comics: Lil

Noir and crime comics can be tricky things to nail, especially since it's the atmospheric details related to character and setting that are key to transcending mere cliche'. Unfortunately for creators Michael Young and Marc Crane, their Lil is choked by cliches, and the sheer bleakness of the story does little to ameliorate the story's many problems. Regarding detail, the characters in Lil seem to veer between being Southern or from Brooklyn. The creators seemed to borrow most of their dialect from TV shows and slipped in a great deal of British slang as well. Considering how over-the-top purple the prose was from the very beginning of this first volume, the fact that they couldn't get their American characters to talk like Americans in a consistent manner was akin to listening to an actor badly flub a Southern accent. There are artistic flubs as well, like a man eating a traditional English breakfast in an American diner.

Beyond the nagging details, this comic's biggest crime is that it's dull. Too often, it mistakes lengthy, wordy confrontations and/or monologues for character development and action. There's a sense where the creators are trying to merge a noir sensibility with something more violent, visceral and edgy ala Quentin Tarantino. The problem is that the dialogue is so painfully mannered that there's no chance of getting to know the characters (and the titular character Lil in particular) as characters. I like the idea of Lil being a self-destructive, self-loathing, junkie/alcoholic who looks for fleeting thrills by sleeping with strangers, because there's no real pretense that she's a likable character. However, with the exception of a single intriguing plot point that's given little development, the book mostly consists of her wandering from sleazy sexual encounter to confrontation with her dealer to a tedious encounter with a disgusting customer at her diner. There's no momentum, and the images are bombarded by page after page of wannabe tough talk. Sixty pages of functional but uninspiring art, lurid scenarios that surprisingly lacked much in the way of visceral impact and tough-guy nihilism could have easily been boiled down to five or ten pages at most.

Noir stories work best when wrapped around a plot that inspires movement and action, and Young & Crane have one in the revelation that someone has been stalking and photographing Lil for most of her life. Everything we needed to know about Lil was revealed in her monologue on page three; instead, the fact that Lil is world-weary and disaffected is repeated on page after page. There's the germ of a good idea in Lil, but the creators got lost in trying to develop it.

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