Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Jacob Phillips
Welcome to a combined review of the last three issues of the first volume of Newburn. It seemed logical to combine these since all three issues are interlinked as the storyline of Emily’s past really reaches a climax here. We learn more about her, more about Newburn and we see more about the moral lines that both have crossed in the past and present. It’s a really thrilling climax to what has been a solid tale of law, order and the grey areas in between.
Issue #6 is interesting as it bounces between 2006, 2016 and 2022. This is a bit of a departure issue as we learn about Emily’s past in some different ways. We open the issue with Sydney Talford, he’s a cop who has got into gambling debts at an underground casino. The casino is suitably atmospheric with some really good red colouring contrasting with the blue of the alley where Talford is brutally given a choice – pay up or else. There are some really nice panels showing the next morning as we see a broken and desperate man put on his uniform. It’s a really good sequence and says much about Talford’s character.
Of course the main interest of the issue is the flashbacks. We see him in 2016 being pushed around by his fellow police recruits. Emily’s journal entries are red and obscured by the large year to tell where we are in the timeline. This means that through this issue we have lost our usual insight. It turns out Emily knew Talford back before she dropped out of the academy At one point she was going to be a cop. I admit it took me longer than it should’ve to realise that the character was Emily, I think she gets called Angie at one point? But once that connection was made the emotional interest of the issue went up a level.
We go back further to 2006 and see young Emily and her desire to be a detective. She reads pulp detective material and for her being a cop was about getting to the truth and solving things, something ironically we know she’ll find with Newburn much later in life. It’s good to see this exploration of Emily as we knew there was something deep about her from her the first time we saw her, that there was something in her past. This issue we find out exactly that that is.
For in 2016 in a very brutally depicted panel we see that Emily, whilst in the academy, accidentally caused the death of Mario Albano, part of the crime family who had crossed over to be a cop. That is the deep dark secret in Emily’s past. It’s not exactly murder, well she did kill a guy, but it was more self defence that caused him to hit his head and end up dead. A thin moral line it is true. Talford of course knows all this because he was there, it was he who Emily was protecting. Yet their paths totally diverged afterwards until the end of issue #6. Talford is suddenly aware of her again and that knowledge will set the wheels in motion.
That’s picked up in issue #7 which also introduces the crime that Newburn will be investigating for the last two issues. It’s a very simple crime – the murder of a Yakuza boss by the man his wife is sleeping with. It’s not really that crime that interests us. The house of the victim is wonderfully portrayed in the art. There are some really brilliant pink and blue colour choices to reflect the flashing lights of the cop cars. The mansion itself has some really strong panels too. The interior where there’s the blood stain of the victim, the staircase, the sense of scale. It feels like an intimate crime scene in a not so intimate house.
I mentioned the crime isn’t really the hook in issue #7. The main thing is that Talford sells out Emily and the fact she killed a member of the Albano family to try and clear his debt. He tells Alexei, the man owning the underground casino, and he passes that onto the Albano mob meaning Emily now has a target on her back. Newburn has his work cut out to save Emily from a vengeful mob. The art of the head really captures the man’s anger and determination at getting revenge on Emily. Again really keeping the tension up.
There are also less tense scenes. Emily and Newburn in a bar discussing his past. The detail of the rather grand bar is excellent and I especially love some of the little background bits and pieces, such as the string quartet. The bar scene is in many ways the emotional heart to heart before the storm. Newburn finally admits how he got into doing what he does – by tipping off a criminal that was being set up by the police. He got paid for that, ironic for a cop who never wanted to take bribes but it put him on a different moral path. That’s what’s underlined about Newburn despite the fact he does what he does he has a strong ethical code. How that will play out with Emily in such trouble will be explored in issue #8.
Newburn #7 ends with a cliff-hanger as Emily, at the police station to get the autopsy report on the murder victim, ends up arrested by Talford for murder. Her old friend Sydney Talford perhaps having realised that Emily is in danger. Or perhaps to try and save his own skin too. After-all there are two mob guys stationed outside the police station waiting for Emily to emerge so they can kill her.
Newburn #8 opens with this tension still very much present as Newburn races to save Emily. Issue #8 is a delicate balancing act for Newburn as he has to get the crime family off Emily’s back and solve the previously mentioned Yakuza murder, this is where we see Newburn come into his own. We see a side to Newburn that has been hidden. Previously he has deferred to the police, to gangs but here he’s in control. This is a confident Newburn, who keep plates spinning in the air.
That’s backed up by some really good art from Jacob Phillips. We see Newburn tackle criminals and cops alike. I love how we get a panel of his face with a red background that really shows the anger that Newburn feels and represents the change from a more quiet approach to one where he takes no prisoners. The closeups we get of Newburn’s expressions help to reveal that different side to him. We see how feared Newburn is. There are still questions about why and how he managed to achieve this level of subtle power? Something perhaps to explore in the next volume. Maybe it will be related to the line that Newburn gives Emily toward the end of the issue: ‘The trick is get your present the armour to deflect what came before.’ wise words.
There’s still a lot about Newburn we don’t know. There are still plenty of questions about what the future holds for both him and Emily. However, this first volume wraps up with these three issues in a very satisfying way. It had interesting character moments and development backed up by really excellent art. Now that volume one is complete I would highly recommend reading it all because it’s an interesting, solid and fascinating read.