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Broke Down and Four Dead Bodies #1 (review)

Orange Cone Productions, February 2018

Writer: Travis Gibbs

Artist: Felix Novara 

Two bickering low-level criminals pushing a ruined, shot-up car along a desert road, with four corpses arranged in the back seat, sounds very much like the opening sequence of a Quentin Tarentino motion picture. And indeed, this story could be the origin tale of Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield from Mr Tarentino’s classic movie, Pulp Fiction. Randy Noble is fresh out of jail, and is collected by a man with whom he has an unsteady relationship, Denver. By the end of the first issue, one is holding a gun to the other’s temple and the other has his hands around the gunman’s throat.

The beginning of this first issue of Broke Down and Four Dead Bodies, written by Travis Gibbs and with art by Felix Novara, covers Denver’s entry into the criminal underworld. This occurs during a corner store hold-up in which Denver meets a crime lord named Mr Washington and makes the mistake of pointing a gun at him. Mr Washingon effortlessly disarms Denver, but drags him along to become a protégé in a scene very reminiscent of the very beginning of Robert Kirkman’s excellent Thief of Thieves (published by Image Comics). 

We have some solid characterisation of the two main characters brought about by Mr Gibbs. Denver has a temper problem and this is repeatedly on display. Denver is a punk who has got lucky through his encounter with Mr Washington and been elevated through the echelon of a gang, but has not become more than superficially polished through his educaiton at the hands of Mr Washington. Noble on the other hand has done three years in prison for Mr Washington, and sounds very corroded and tired as a consequence of the experience. Noble clearly did not enjoy prison and seems to have taken the blame for Mr Washington’s offsider, Miguel. Noble did the right thing by his fellow crooks and did not sell out Washington or Miguel, but has being locked up in a maximum security institute has had a profound impact on his outlook on life.

Mr Novara’s art is very good, and reminds us of the pencils of Pat Broderick, perhaps best known for his work on Captain Atom for DC Comics in the 1990s. Mr Washington’s presence in particular is underscored by his bulk and by Mr Novara’s low perspectives, and authority is conveyed through his impeccable and wrinkle-free tailoring. Infrequently, the perspectives are a little wonky, but certainly nothing which interferes in the enjoyment of the book. The only real complaint we have, if indeed it is a complaint, is that for a gritty crime story Mr Novara’s clean lines are a little too pretty. Fresh faces aside, Mr Novara does a mean muscle car with smooth lines and a sense of movement which looks like it is the storyboard to a Dodge television commercial.

Back to Mr Gibbs and to our conclusion: he does a commendable job of setting up a mystery. Where has the money gone? Was this a set-up by Mr Washington? Has it been stolen by Denver? Is it Mr Washington’s offsider, Miguel? This is a thoroughly entertaining comic.

The title’s website is here and issues 1 and 2 (the  latter of which we have not reviewed) are available on Comixology