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Lost in the Shuffle #1 (review)

Creator: Alex M Clark

Independently published, 2023

Lost in the Shuffle is an independent title created by Alex M Clark. Mr Clark’s slightly goofy artistic style sucked us in. We were expecting humorous hijinks, along the lines of a Guy Ritchie caper or The Blues Brothers. The protagonist, a gambling addict named Quinn, must pay a sizeable gambling debt in a hurry. Quinn, vaguely suggestive of Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoon, finds himself comically running down a street chased by dogs. Will the dogs catch him and lick him? What hijinks might Quinn and his faithful friend Morgan get up to as they try to get the cash together?

The story however is anything but light-hearted. Notwithstanding the lurid colours, and almost complete absence of shadow (and more on this in due course), the plot of Lost in the Shuffle is more Tarantino than Hanna-Barbara. The promotional copy reads as follows:

After losing big at a Poker game, gambling enthusiast Quinn, with best friend Morgan, get in way over their heads when a scheme to pay back the money goes from terrible to down-right life changing. When Morgan hatches a plan to rob an armored truck making a delivery, he never knew helping out his best friend meant running from the law and the local mob. The only option our two intrepid “heroes” have is to drive, walk, and crawl cross country to Quinn’s wealthy, techno mogul father. They believe he’s the only one who can save them. After his father left Quinn and his dying mother in the midwest, Quinn never forgave him for abandoning them. The only option Quinn has is the last one he wants.

Quinn is in big trouble, owing $23000 to a mobster. The last time he was late in payment, his now ex-girlfriend had her legs broken. Morgan’s solution is to rob some elderly security guards of a sum of money which will more than cover the debt. It goes wrong, and Quinn finds himself a murderer.

We have to commend Mr Clark for engaging an editor, Chris Wood. It shows. The dialogue is good, but more importantly, the plot surges along without skipping a beat.

How did Morgan find Quinn, and how did the mobsters find Quinn and Morgan holed up in the motel? Morgan’s intense fidelity to his friend is suspicious, and we assume he is engaged in some malevolent plan to get access to Quinn’s wealthy, estranged father. If so, it is a very long play by Morgan, given Quinn noted that they had been friends for ten years. Given the tension of the plot in this first issue, and Morgan’s intense focus on the prize, Quinn will need to play his weak hand very well indeed to come out alive from the scenario Mr Clark has created.

Quinn himself is a weak man, like many addicts, and finds himself easily led along by Morgan. There is nothing unnatural about this characterisation by Mr Clark of his lead player. Quinn is initially desperate and in fear as he tries to work out how to get the cash to pay his debt. What was promised as a straightforward armed robbery leads to a retired, decorated police officer falling from a window, Quinn shifts from fear to complete panic. Morgan is Quinn’s spine. The only issue Quinn refuses to buckle on is calling his father. The animosity between Quinn and his father is a chasm. Mr Clark demonstrates this very clearly, and with finesse. Quinn can be cajoled by Morgan into an armed robbery and evading an arrest for murder. Calling his father is too far. The relationship breakdown is an old trauma, cemented in.

Back to the art. We do not know why Mr Clark agreed to the use of colours like candy orange, purple, and canary yellow as backdrops to the panels. This is a dark and dangerous story, brooding with malice and fear. Shadow is deployed only when Quinn is kidnapped by his violent debtors in the night. But otherwise, the tone set by the colours is jarring. Our enjoyment of what is otherwise an excellent crime story was marred by the wacky palette.

Lost in the Shuffle was the subject of a successful Kickstart campaign in October 2023: Lost in the Shuffle: No. 1 comic book by ALEX M CLARK — Kickstarter and is now available for purchase here: Home · Alex M Clark Art · Online Store Powered by Storenvy