The Weekly Round-Up #172 with The Private Eye, Chew, DHP, Five Ghosts, Mind MGMT, Revival, Saga, Storm Dogs & More

Columns, Top Story

Best Comic of the Week:

The Private Eye #1

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Marcos Martin
The easiest way to get me to overcome my dislike of reading comics on my computer?  Tell me that there’s a new digital-only series by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin.  Want to sweeten the deal even more?  Tell me that it’s being offered as a ‘pay what you can’ purchase.

The Private Eye, available here, is a pretty excellent comic.  Vaughan posits a world where the Internet has been abandoned after everyones’ personal information was made available to everyone, causing bankruptcies, divorces, and a ton of embarrassment.  In this future, everyone has become so concerned with their privacy that they wear disguises whenever they leave their homes.  Some of these disguises are mundane, making a person just look like another person, while others wear elaborate costumes (one guy has a fish face) or expensive holographic rigs to hide their true faces.In this environment, which is explained very naturally over the course of the issue, we meet a PI, also called a Paparazzi, in this world where the 4th Estate has some sort of policing role, who specializes in uncovering peoples’ real identities.  At the beginning of the issue he is staking out a young woman, photographing her real face for a man who has been in love with her since high school.

Later, he is asked by a woman with a tiger face, to investigate her background, as she is applying for one of the few jobs which require a background security check.  Of course, there’s a lot more going on with her than what the PI is told, but this is just the first issue, so we don’t know what that’s going to be yet.

Vaughan takes a slow, organic approach to explaining how things work in this world.  Most of the issue leaves us in the dark, until the PI has to talk to his senile grandfather, who clearly used to be a hipster when he was younger (i.e., in our time).  The PI, who sometimes goes by the code-name Patrick Immelmann, is an interesting character.  He has quite the collection of memorabilia, and is shown reading Joseph Heller. Martin shows us around his office, where books by Barack Obama and Henry Miller share prominence with Freakonomics.

Martin is always an exciting artist, although he is only given one opportunity to cut loose in an early chase sequence.  Still, this is a visually exciting comic, and I’m very pleased by the fact that there are nine more instalments to come.  Go check this out – and make sure you throw some money the creators’ way.

Other Notable Comics:

Chew #32

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

I feel like I could never get tired of reading Chew, especially an issue as dense and meaty as this one.

Tony and his FDA compatriots are called out to assist a group of USDA agents, who are completely swamped by a string of attacks by members of the Immaculate Ova Cult, who have sworn to kill all chicken eaters.  Tony and his crew show up at a Mexican fast food joint, where a torta-espadero is killing agents using shuriken-shaped tortillas.

Tony handles this problem, and returns to the office to continue his investigations into the whereabouts of the cibopathic ‘vampire’ who killed someone close to him, while Colby and Caesar stop of at a chicken speakeasy for a little lunch.

This is a pretty pivotal issue for a few reasons.  First, Colby figures out that Caesar is still working with his (and Chu’s) former partner Savoy, who has been set up all along as a villain in the book.  Colby has been steadily becoming a more complex character, and this issue really sees him grow.  The second pivotal event happens when Tony’s boss gets on his case one time too many – it’s a scene that made me want to cheer.

Layman and Guillory have taken this series, with its very odd central concept, and made it a very character-driven title.  While this is a humour comic, these characters have real weight to them, which makes the stakes in recent issues feel ever higher.

Dark Horse Presents #22

Written by Howard Chaykin, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Michael Avon Oeming, Geoffrey Thorne, Denis Medri, Mike Richardson, Patrick Alexander, Simon Roy, Jason Wordie, Kel McDonald, Shannon Wheeler, and Steve Moncuse
Art by Howard Chaykin, Steve Lieber, Michael Avon Oeming, Todd Harris, Denis Medri, Geof Darrow, Patrick Alexander, Simon Roy, Kel McDonald, Shannon Wheeler, and Steve Moncuse

It’s not easy to give up on an anthology title, especially one that serializes stories over many months, but I think I just might be done with Dark Horse Presents.  Increasingly, I haven’t found the stories on offer as interesting as they were when this series was relaunched about two years ago, and Dark Horse has made it pretty clear that most of these stories are going to be reprinted in ‘zero’ issues or as one-shots, which makes me wonder why I’m paying $8 a month for a fair amount of content that I’m not all that interested in reading.  Were Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series still running, I wouldn’t even be thinking about jumping ship, as I consider paying $8 for 8 pages of her work completely reasonable, on the off chance that something else in the package would strike my fancy.

This issue, the story I enjoyed the most was the continuation of Simon Roy’s Tiger Lung, which is an indigenous spiritual adventure.  I have been a fan of Roy’s since buying his Jan’s Atomic Heart from him at TCAF a few years ago, and I’m always happy to find more of his work.

Howard Chaykin, who is not a creator I’m overly fond of, did entertain me with his alternate history about George Custer (he becomes President and declares war on Canada!), although I can’t tell if this was a one-off or if there will be more to come.

Journeymen, by Geoffrey Thorne and Todd Harris, is interesting, with its pirates, monsters, and teleportation, but I’m not sure I’m following the whole thing properly.  Arcade Boy, by Denis Medri, is kind of cute.

The interview between Mike Richardson and Geof Darrow was interesting enough, as they share their remembrances of terrible jobs for ad companies in the 70s, and talk about meeting Moebius, but it was the kind of self-serving stuff that tanked Creator-Owned Heroes.  I’d rather have just seen more Darrow art.

Beyond that, I found this issue pretty lacklustre, and not really worth talking about.

Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1

Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Chris Mooneyham

I figured that it was an easy bet to take a chance on Five Ghosts, a new Image mini-series.  The writer, Frank J. Barbiere has caught my eye with his ‘White Suits’ stories in Dark Horse Presents, which deal with a mysterious Russian mafia.  The artist, Chris Mooneyham is new to me, but he has a style that reminds me a little of a cross between John Watkiss and Francesco Francavilla, with a little Frank Robbins tossed in, which is an interesting mix, giving this book a bit of a retro look to it.

The story is about Fabian Gray, a ‘treasure hunter’ who was somehow possessed by five ‘literary ghosts’ after touching an artifact.  Now, how exactly literary characters can exist as ghosts (outside of Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s Unwritten) is not very clear, but it does give Gray the ability to tap into the knowledge and special skill sets of Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, some wizard (Merlin?) and a samurai (that one stumped me).

The story is set in the Second World War, and after an Indiana Jones-like opening sequence in a Nazi castle, followed by a little canoodling with his client, Gray hangs out with his advisor, before getting all possessed and crazy.  We learn that there are forces coming for Gray, and then he and his friend get shot down in Africa by spider-eyed Zulu warriors, or something like that.

I don’t have a great handle on this book right now.  I like the art a lot, but am having some problems in following the story.  Perhaps a second read would help.  As it stands, I’m not all that sure if I’m going to stick with the title, but I would like to give it a second chance to impress me.  I think I was expecting something a little more literary (and yes, I know that Iago is in it), and maybe read this in the wrong mindstate.  I’ll give it another go before the second issue comes out and see how I feel about it then.

If you’re looking for an interesting adventure, you could do worse.

Mind MGMT #9

by Matt Kindt

I can’t think of another new title that accomplishes what Mind MGMT does on a monthly basis.  Matt Kindt is telling his large story on a number of different levels, showing us the main story of what is happening to Meru, Henry Lyme, and the small but growing group of ex-Mind MGMT agents that are helping them to try to foil the plans of The Eraser, but also filling in the background of the agency, and introducing us to a number of its agents through short strips at the front and back of the book.

In this issue, Meru and her crew survive the attack on Dusty, an ex-agent with music-based powers’s mansion, and try to use his half of a map to find Shangri-La, the former base of operations of Mind MGMT.  We learn that, despite the agency being defunct for a few years, Dusty has recently received missions.  We also become a little more intrigued about the often-mentioned figure Duncan, who we can imagine has some sort of beef with Lyme, but who is also likely to be essential to this mission’s survival.  Meru is getting closer to figuring out (again) her relationship with Lyme, as she becomes more and more convinced that she has had her memory wiped.

One thing that is really cool about this issue is the way in which Kindt shows us Dusty’s history, through the tracks of his first album.  The first letter of each song title spells out a message, furthering the use of subliminal information which is a theme in this comic.  Also of interest is the way in which the text from Meru’s book (which runs up the left-hand side of most pages) intersects with her own experiences.

Mind MGMT is one of the more impressive comics on the stands.

Revival #8

Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Mike Norton

Revival, Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s rather involved series about a town where the dead came back to life, not as zombies but more or less as the people they once were, continues to sprawl and grow with each new issue.  Rather than making this a very focused, and limited, series that centres itself on the police procedural aspects of the story, Seeley is using the strange event of Revival Day to explore a number of facets of human, and particularly American, behaviour and culture.

This issue moves a little further into the politics of the situation.  Both the right and the left want to make use of the town of Wausau Wisconsin, and we learn that the Mayor of the town has some kind of hold over the Sheriff, who is the father of the two main characters.

Seeley touches base on a number of on-going plots, such as the difficulty of policing the quarantine zone, and Martha’s adjustments to her new role as a Reviver.  The hunt for Reviver murderer Anders is called off by the Mayor, and May, the young reporter, tries to trick her way into interviewing local fitness legend Lester Majak about his involvement with the ‘exorcist’ who tried to kill her and Martha.

We also meet some new characters at a gay bar, and are introduced to a couple at the end of the issue who are anything but normal.

I’ll admit that I sometimes have a hard time keeping track of all the various sub-plots in this title (a character sheet would be helpful), but I am enjoying this book very much.  It is a strange mash-up of The Walking Dead, Twin Peaks, and Picket Fences or maybe Fargo, and it has wonderful art by Mike Norton.

Saga #11

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples

It’s another issue of Saga, which means it’s time to find a new way to praise a series that is consistently wonderful.  Maybe it’s not needed?  Saga is becoming synonymous with quality after all.  Maybe its sufficient to just give a short recap.

This issue opens with a flashback to the night that Hazel was conceived; it seems that Vaughan and Staples try to open each new issue with a splash page that people are going to find shocking, at least in a mid-American Wal-Mart.  I don’t really think it’s necessary, but it’s usually kind of fun (and this month, sexy).

After that, we see how Marko and Alana’s family escape from the perilous gravity-space-baby thing that showed up last issue.  To get their wooden, living rocket ship out of harm’s way, both Marko and his father have to resort to some rather extreme measures, both of which have consequences that are going to affect the family for some time to come.

On The Will’s ship, he performs a rescue of Lying Cat, who got sucked out to space (apparently exposure to space is not much of an issue for these guys), and argues a little with Marko’s ex.

Really, this is a pretty quick read this month, but as always, the book is absolutely lovely, and filled with good character work.  As always, I enjoyed it immensely.

Storm Dogs #4

Written by David Hine
Art by Doug Braithwaite

Storm Dogs is a rare comics series.  It’s an intelligent, thoughtful science fiction title with fantastic art, that features detailed world building, well-developed characters, and a number of surprises and twists on its way through the story.  It’s the kind of science fiction that I wish would show up on TV and in movies; something engaging, balanced, and with relevance to our world.  In some ways, this is Avatar done correctly, but that seems a little reductionist.

So much has happened in this series that I find it hard to believe that we are only four issues into things.  This issue opens with Sheriff Starck fighting with his deputy, Bronson, who he has decided is involved in at least one, if not all of the murders that have brought a special group of investigators to the planet of Amaranth.  Bronson goes to the mining consortium that he has secretly been working for to lick his wounds, and to help them in their interrogation of a Joppa, the race that seems to run things on the planet.  There is some sort of secret that the Joppa are keeping about some mysterious gems.

Our heroes, the investigative team being led by Cassandra Burroughs, make their way to a village of Elohi, a group that are roughly analogous to minimally-contacted tribes that live in the Amazon, where they are hoping to learn more about the work of the anthropologist, Professor Sarlat, who once stayed with them.  This leads in turn to more mysteries.

We also get to learn a little more in this issue about the wireheads – people who rent out their body so that others can move and manipulate them.  This practice is illegal in the rest of the Union, but appears to be tolerated on Amaranth.

In the letters’ page, Hine talks about having the story prepared for a second mini-series, and discusses the potential for much more Storm Dogs, if the demand warrants it.  I hope that this series gets the chance to continue to run, as Hine and Braithwaite have built an interesting world, with the potential for many more stories.  Reading the text pieces show that this is a fully realized universe he’s setting his stories in, and it’s one I would like to learn a lot more about.  Please check out this series.

Quick Takes:

All-New X-Men #9Just when I thought it might be time to start buying this book regularly, Brian Michael Bendis gives us the most Bendisian issue to date, as the original X-Men squabble with Kitty Pryde after an overly-long Danger Room sequence, and Jean Grey starts to look kind of evil, with motivations that are hard to understand or reconcile with how she was being portrayed just a few issues ago.  It felt like this issue was spinning its wheels waiting for the last page, so it could coincide with last week’s issue of Uncanny X-Men.  Marvel could have just skipped this whole issue pretty safely.  This does not bode well for me and this title…

Avengers #8 – Continuing with his integration of the old New Universe characters into the Marvel Universe (by way of Warren Ellis’s aborted newuniversal), Jonathan Hickman has the Avenger’s strike team face off against the new Starbrand.  This is a pretty quick-moving issue, with some very nice art by Dustin Weaver, but I can’t help but wonder if there wouldn’t have been a way to explain what’s going on without relying on such confusing explanations.  I also wondered if it really makes sense to have a Hulk on the team…

Batwoman #18 – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this issue, which is the first after the epic-length Medusa story ran its course.  JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman plot this one rather strangely – Batwoman is now working with her cousin Hawkfire (I still want to call her Firehawk), but each of them receive their orders from different people at the other side of their earpieces.  They fight Mister Freeze, and Batman has a cameo.  Later, Maggie Sawyer goes house-hunting, and Bones and Cameron Chase make nefarious plans for Batwoman, which involve the return of someone Chase hasn’t seen for a couple of years, in one of the worst issue endings I’ve seen in ages.  The pacing of this book is very poor, mostly because of the ending, but Trevor McCarthy, who I assume is now the new regular artist, does a terrific job of maintaining the general look and feel of Williams III’s run, keeping me visually engaged in the whole issue.

BPRD Hell on Earth #105Two people return to the BPRD this month, and both made me very happy.  The first is Abe Sapien, albeit only in a very short scene, but I’ve missed BPRD’s central character over the half year or so.  The second is artist Peter Snejbjerg, whose monthly absence from store shelves is something I can never understand (although I hope it’s by his choice, and not because his work is underappreciated).  There’s a lot going on in the Mignola-verse these days, and I like the increased profile given to the Russian counterpart to the BPRD; this issue deals with the current location of Varvara, the young girl who used to run the organization, and also used to appear to Professor Bruttenholm.

Conan the Barbarian #14 – Another excellent issue, as Conan leads a small group through the walls of the fortress that the army he was pressed into is laying siege to, while continuing to pine for Bêlit.  Mirko Colak’s art is wonderful, and Brian Wood’s writing is tight and introspective.  This is a wonderful series.

Daredevil #24 – Once again, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee turn in an excellent issue of Daredevil.  Most of the focus is on Foggy’s cancer diagnosis, as he prepares for a procedure to learn how advanced (and therefore fatal) his cancer is, while Matt tries to make up with his DA friend, and the people who have been messing with him take another try, this time sending enhanced dogs to his offices.  Solid stuff all around.

Elephantmen #47 – Richard Starkings continues to take his plot into strange territory, as Hip Flask, Ebony Hide, and Trench are sent to the Moon to investigate the source of the virus-ridden meteors that struck ages ago (number-wise), and discover a Chinese installation that is not as abandoned as they thought.  I seriously don’t remember the ‘Elephantmen as astronaut’ story element before a few issues back, when we learned that Hip and his people had visited Mars, and I’m wondering if Starkings is actively retconning his own title.  Weird plot pacing aside, Elephantmen continues to be a solid source of strong character-driven writing, and with Axel Medellin drawing, is always lovely.

Harbinger #10I’ve been a big fan of this title since it started, but the presence of four different pencillers made me feel like I was reading a DC comic  Peter and his group arrange their escape from Project Rising Spirit, and that’s about all that happens this issue, as Joshua Dysart positions the book to be ready for the Harbinger Wars cross-over, which I rather would like to skip, seeing as I’m not as big a fan of the Bloodshot title this is tying into.

Indestructible Hulk #5 – I was enjoying the beginning of Mark Waid’s new take on the Hulk, but the last two issues have left me a little cold.  The whole Lemuria plot felt very forced, and I found it distracted from the new approach of making Banner a SHIELD scientist.  I’d say I’m done with the title, but the next two issues are drawn by Walter Simonson, so I’ll probably stick around to check those out.

Invincible #101 – In the aftermath of the last issue, people are working to put their lives back together.  Invincible shows up to help out with reconstruction, but not to a very warm welcome from his fellow heroes, while his father has to live under Cecil’s terms if he is to stay near the Earth.  As always with this title, Robert Kirkman has a lot of characters to juggle, and spends most of the issue checking in on them, but it is all very readable and enjoyable.

New Avengers #4 – As a new incursion begins, the Avengers Illuminati attempt to implement their plans, although they are not ready.  This has been a very talkative series since it began, and simply based on the appearances of Captain America (pre-Marvel NOW!), Reed Richards and Iron Man (early Marvel NOW!, before they both went off into space), and Beast (most recent appearance) this book does not fit anywhere easily within Marvel’s continuity.  Setting all of that aside, there is something very cool about Namor laughing in the face of cosmic doom, and something rather thrilling about the appearance of Galaktus and Terrax this issue.  Jonathan Hickman is doing good work here, but like the main Avengers title, it’s a little lacking in heart, although a strong scene between Dr. Strange and Wong does work to fill that gap.

Nightwing #18I’d felt like I’d stuck around this title a little too long, and have had that confirmed as Dick grieves for Damian, and then decides to uproot and move to a new city, to track down a figure from his distant past who everyone thought was dead.  It’s all pretty humdrum, and Juan José Ryp’s art looks very phoned-in, especially compared to the work he’s been doing in Clone.  I think I pre-ordered the next issue of this title, but after that, I’m done.  It’s too bad – for a while there, this was a pretty interesting title.

Star Wars Legacy (Vol. 2) #1 – John Ostrander’s Star Wars Legacy series brought me back into the franchise after some twenty years away.  His vision of the future of the Star Wars universe, set over a hundred years after the end of Return of the Jedi gave us Star Wars as it should have always been – without cutesy droids and furry aliens, focussing instead on high adventure (and perhaps a little too much Jedi mysticism).  Now, the timeline, if not the central characters, are being revived and put in the very capable hands of Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, the duo who have been doing amazing work at Boom on Planet of the Apes.  Even better though?  Hardman is drawing this title!  This series follows the descendent of Han Solo and Leia Organa; Ania Solo is a junk dealer at the far end of the galaxy, until she comes across a lightsaber lost by one of the Imperial Knights after a surprise Sith attack.  Most of this issue is set-up, as Bechko and Hardman bring us up to speed on galactic politics and the types of projects being undertaken by the new government to unite the galaxy under a banner of peace.  I was pretty impressed with this first issue, and am happy that I’ll be able to revisit this well-constructed time period with such fantastic creators.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #21 – Following Venom’s attack at his his home, which injured his dad, Miles tries to figure out what he needs to do, and is aided by Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacey.  A very good issue, that works as a bit of a rest in the middle of a big story.

Wonder Woman #18DC’s best comic continues to please me, as Diana fights Hermes for the fate of Zola’s child (with Orion at her side), Ares acts out of character, and the first son of Zeus has it out with Poseidon.  It’s a lovely issue, with a cobbled-together melange of artists who I admire, including Goran Sudzuka, Tony Akins, and Cliff Chiang showing up to tie it all up.  It feels like Brian Azzarrello’s first long arc on this title is finally finished, and I look forward to seeing where he takes things next.

X-Factor #253 – More Hell on Earth War means more middle of the road X-Factor, as the team is too swept up in grand events in the various underworlds of the Marvel Universe to be of any particular interest.

X-O Manowar #11 – Reading this book, I was once again reminded of what an incredible artist Cary Nord is – he illustrates the history of The Vine, the aliens who captured and tortured Aric for millennia, and lays out each page wonderfully.  Another solid issue in what has been an exceptionally solid series.

Comics I Would Have Bought if They Weren’t $4:

Action Comics #18

Cable and X-Force #6

Captain America #5

Savage Wolverine #3

Superior Spider-Man #6

Bargain Comics:

Batgirl Annual #1This team-up featuring Batgirl, Catgirl, and a female Talon (who apparently is in the Birds of Prey) is a pretty decent read, with some very nice art by Admira Wijaya.  I have no idea what the relationship between Barbara Gordon and Selina Kyle is in the New 52, and this didn’t shed a whole lot of light on that, but it was entertaining enough.  The mute Talon reminded me a little of when Cassandra Cain was Batgirl – I wonder if that was intentional.  I have never been overly impressed by Gail Simone’s Batgirl, and this didn’t do a whole lot to change my mind.

Punisher War Zone #1 – Greg Rucka on Punisher has been an impressive thing.  He knows that the story is not in Frank Castle himself, but in how others react to him, and construct his legend.  This issue is really as much a Spider-Man comic as it is a Punisher one; Spidey goes up against him, and then decides that it’s time for the Avengers to take him down.  I’m kind of kicking myself for not having bought all of this mini-series as it was hitting the stands – Rucka does good work, and Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is lovely.

The Week in Graphic Novels:

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

by Shigeru Mizuki

Take a moment and think about how the West has portrayed Japanese soldiers of the Second World War in films, novels, and other media.  The image that immediately comes to my mind is of tenacious fighters who attack suddenly, and who never give up an inch of ground.  I can’t think of a single movie I’ve seen or book I’ve read that gets into the Japanese perspective though.

That’s why I was excited to crack open Sigeru Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, the collection of a manga story that was originally serialized in 1973.

This book is, according to the author, 90% true.  Mizuki was stationed on New Britain, an island in the Papua New Guinean archipelago, and was home to some fierce fighting between the Japanese and the Americans.  Mizuki introduces us to a number of characters of all ranks, and shows the boredom of the soldiers awaiting an Allied attack.

Much of this book is given over to portraying the officers as dehumanizing the men under their command.  Barely a page goes by where someone isn’t being slapped or beaten simply because of their lower rank.  The men have their time wasted by officers looking to keep them busy, and the men slowly lose all sense of respect for the war effort in general.  When it becomes clear that the soldiers holding an area around Baien have no hope of success, their leaders decide that the appropriate course of action is to attack the Americans in a frontal suicide charge.

Some of the men survive this, and make their way to their larger forces, far to the rear of the fighting.  That they survived is seen as something between an inconvenience and a complete insult.  Their deaths have been reported to military command, and so it is necessary for them to attack again, ensuring their fate is what their commanders expect.

This book lays bare the problems of Japan during the war.  The need for honor, and for keeping up appearances sent men to needless deaths, while doing nothing to halt the Allied advance.  Mizuki does a terrific job of humanizing this senseless slaughter, and portraying it in a light, enjoyable fashion.

Mizuki’s art is very interesting.  His backgrounds and establishing shots are exceptionally detailed and photo-realistic, while his figures are drawn in a very simple, cartoonish style.  Many of the characters look like the racially stereotypical drawings of the Japanese seen in American comics of the war period, which kind of surprised me.

I enjoyed reading this book a great deal.  None of the characters, with the possible exception of the doctor, stuck with me, although that is something that often happens to me when I read war comics; all of the characters are usually so similar that as individuals, they don’t matter.  Which was more or less the point of the Japanese command.

Shutterbug Follies

by Jason Little

Having read and enjoyed Jason Little’s second ‘Bee’ graphic novel,Motel Art Improvement Service, about a year ago, I set out to find his first book featuring his nosy young heroine.

Shutterbug Follies is a quick-paced a romp, but it is also a much more inconsistent graphic novel with more than a few problems that were never properly explained.

We are rather quickly introduced to Bee, an intelligent eighteen year old who works at a photo developing shop (this book came out in 2002, when I guess people still actually had film in their cameras and developed it).  Bee likes to keep copies of the stranger photos she develops, and shares them with her best friend, who is only a slight presence in the book.  One day, a man named Oleg Khatchatourian comes in asking for his pictures to be developed, and he warns Bee that they might be a little grisly.

As it turns out, Khatchatourian is a well-known fine arts photographer who specializes in Weegee-like portraits of recently murdered people.  For some reason, Bee becomes a little obsessed with him, and starts researching everything she can about his life.  She discovers that his wife was recently killed in an accident involving a hansom cab, and so Bee is off to prove that Khatchatourian is really her killer.  Through a series of unbelievable coincidences, she becomes friendly with Khatchatourian’s assistant, and a cab driver who is happy to help her trail the guy.

Eventually, Bee discovers that Khatchatourian has ties to the Russian mafia, and that his wife was poisoning their son in a Munchausen by proxy scenario that goes nowhere.  Likewise, she discovers that the artist’s assistant is a peeping tom, but that goes nowhere either.  Most difficult to understand is why Khatchatourian would need to have photos developed at her shop, seeing as he has a completely operational darkroom in his two-story apartment, along with an assistant whose only job is to develop his pictures.

It was these kinds of inconsistencies which really drew me out of the story.  Also, Bee’s character is not developed very much at all – had I not known who she was from the second book, I’d have found it hard to care at all about the character in this book.  Little’s art is nice, but the story needed a lot more work.

Album of the Week:

Spiritual Jazz 4: Americans in Europe Model, Esoteric and Progressive Jazz from the European Underground 1963-1979 – I can’t stress enough how much I have loved Jazzman Records’s Spiritual Jazz series, but this newest edition, a double-disc set, feels like it’s taking things to a whole new level.  Beautiful, rare groove music in a very nicely designed package.

What would you like to know?