Reviewed by: Mathan Erhardt
Story Title: The Black Bird
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Penciled and Inked by: Sean Phillips
Colored by: Brian Miller
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: DC Comics
The issue opens with Hawkman and Hawkgirl roughing up some thugs in Malta in order for Hawkman to obtain a ring. Hawkgirl questions its value and Hawkman remembers back to his last encounter with the ring.
We flash back to St. Roch in 1917. There Jimmy Wright and his partner Sam are working a case for the Pinkertons. It seems that a statue that was stolen from a guy in New York is en route to St. Roch. When they go to intercept it, they find their reluctant informant has already been beaten to death and the statue is nowhere to be found. But the body yields an address that proves to be a clue.
When they pay the address a visit and find the middle man of the deal, who has a beef with Jimmy Wright. After a fight he gives up some information on who as to be receiving the statue.
Jimmy decides to talk to some of his sources in the town. He talks to the owner of an opium den and runs into Sheila Carr, a past flame who as it turns out is now Big Louie Moretti the crime boss of St. Roch.
When Jimmy confronts Big Louie the picture becomes crystal clear. I don’t want to give it away, but the surprise is a pleasant one. Of course the story ends in tragedy, but a beautiful one. And we even find out what happened to Sam.
Brubaker can craft a hell of a crime noir story. I fell in love with his work in â€œScene of The Crimeâ€ mini series (of which I’m still awaiting the sequel.) He nails the voice of the period and uses historical figures and organizations to really capture the era. The story itself is just great. Of course everyone knows how it will end, but the journey to that end is an enjoyable one.
Phillips is really impressing me. His recent JSA issue dropped my jaw, and his work here only causes my admiration to grow. I’m a big fan of shadow, and Phillips uses it like a master. The dreariness of St. Roch is palpable. And as a guy who lives in Las Vegas and used to live in Baltimore, that rain in the beginning of the story looked far too accurate. And as a guy who used to live in Baltimore, I always appreciate a Jon Polito appearance. Phillips too captures the look of the period and really compliments Brubaker’s story. Rest assured â€œSleeperâ€ is on â€œto getâ€ list.