An anthology of crime

First Degree is an anthology, specifically a crime anthology. It’s marketed as a noir crime anthology. If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘noir’ and feel the urge to Google it you will get the definition ‘A genre of crime film or fiction characterised by cynicism, fatalism and moral ambiguity’. In other words this stuff can get real depressing. Noir is a bit of disputed term and there’s no overall consensus but basically it’s dark sadness. This anthology draws from the French rather than the American Noir tradition.

This anthology is certainly full of dark sadness. The problem with any anthology is also its strength – it’s a real mix bag. Some of the stories will hit and some will miss. I have to say plot wise a lot of these missed for me. There were a few where I felt there was some really clever plotting. The Game felt very tense and I think played into the strengths of the genre well. Curley, on the wrong side of the grass also had a really interesting plot, and although I did guess what was going on it unfolded in a nice character driven way.

The Disappearance of Mrs Faussen has an interesting twist. As did Dark and Deep. I thought I had figured out the twist, but I didn’t and the actual reveal was really nicely done. Leontine was one of the more cheerful stories (I mean there’s still death) and I appreciated that.

My least favourite was Theodicy which just seemed unrelentingly brutal and awful with no real point other than people in power are the absolute worst. It also really squicked me out. If human sacrifice and bad things happening to women and children hit a squick for you then avoid that one. I wish I had. I am not sure what The Comeback Kid was trying to say. That baffled me a little. Born To Draw had one of the most downer of endings.

The art is as varied as the tales within. I Knew was one that stood out to me art wise. The almost charcoal like quality rally gave it a very noir atmosphere and I really loved the lean toward a realistic style. The art style of Pigalle is classical European comic style. With very few words the art tells a depressing story with blues, browns and greys and is very effective. Whilst I am not keen on the subject matter A Taste of Salt on the Tongue has some really interesting art especially late on with the panels. The rawness of a naked body is really juxtaposed with the rawness of the emotional content.

Fired Up cleverly uses just a few colours to indicate to the reader the character’s emotional state and shift in mood. It’s a very effective colour work. Overdose also makes effective use of colour along with some interesting character design. Whereas Rapid Eye Movement goes almost hyper realistic in form, which works really well for the story, Encounter goes for realism in a more gritty and down to earth way.

Overall if you don’t mind sad depressing tales about sad depressing events, and innocents suffering, then you will probably find a story in here that works for you. It’s worth flicking through just for the art to be honest as there’s some really interesting stuff on show. If you have squicks about murder, suicide, drugs and death then this probably isn’t the collection for you but if you are cool with that you might enjoy a wandering through the noir side of comics.

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