Now normally, much like yourself, I prefer my comics to retain their original, christian name. However, I decided to let this case prove the rule and am I glad I did! This comic is the best ‘comic which had to legally change its name due to possible copyright infringement on the name of a world famous heavy metal band’ that there ever was. Of course, I don’t make that claim lightly.
First, a brief overview so I can get crunchy. This story was published as a series in 2007. I know, that’s like, a whole Big Bang Theory ago, right? Yea, sorry I’m late. But on the other hand, the trade paperback has only been out for like 3 years, so, ok, yea…anyway. The Iron Saint takes place in a pseudo 1930s big american city, and is presented as an action-noir. It was written by Jason Rubin, whose name might be familiar to you, and if not there’s always Google. The author describes this comic in these words, “a cross between a ’30s gangster film, Escape from New York, and Beauty and the Beast“(1) Sounds cool, right? Well, it is. So, that’s pretty much the basics, now on to the details!
You like art? Me too! I especially like it when the art is not only pleasing to the eye, but evocative of the setting, creating the world in which the story inhabits and making it breathe. In this series, the pencils are done by Witchblade’s Francis Manapul, and once again he uses the visuals to immerse you in a unique world. The lines flow reminiscent of depression era design, but with a uniqueness that allows it to be familiar yet stand apart as an alternate universe. Manapul doesn’t neglect to fill the panels with the little details that give life to the scenes, making them seem like a slice of reality. You’ll want to keep your eye out for these in backgrounds, and pick out these features to further your appreciation of this masterpiece.
The coloring (by Danimation) is vivid and impactful, helping to realize the action in a more visceral manner. Alert! This book is violent, so you may want to read it before passing it on to the kiddies. The coloring explodes off the page, adding another beautiful dimension to this feast for the eyes. And the blood looks great.
“Well, what about plot,” you say in my head, “isn’t that a full fourth of what makes a comic great?” Yes, it is. Here, once again, this book does not disappoint. Rubin weaves a classic noir, filled to the rim with the requisite three D’s, Double-crosses, a Deadline, and a Dame. Yet he manages to convey this classic formula with a modern sensibility, so he won’t bore those with ‘no appreciation for classic story-telling styles’, who need to go watch The Maltese Falcon right now and appreciate! The story moves along quickly, never taking a slow turn nor losing momentum, before coming to a satisfying, if predictable, ending.
Part the third, dialogue. It can be hard to write noir speechery, as the style of speaking in this genre is so well-known that it borders on hackneyed. Rather than fall into the trap of having the characters speak as if parodies of themselves, Rubin lets them talk with a modern speech pattern, littered with noir phrasing and the occasional setting appropriate vocabulary word. He does an excellent job making you feel the fashion of the noir speech without bogging you down in cliches. It moves along snappily as well, pleasing to the mind’s ear, as it were.
Finally, I finish with the characters. Each one is vividly realized as an idividual personage. They have their own wardrobes, colors, voices, walks, moves, nicknames, hairstyles, fighting techniques, aw hell, they’re unique is what I’m saying! The whole creative team enlivens every one with a different expression of their art. It is a very impressive effort which creates a quirky rogues gallery that is both genre standard and original at the same time. You will grow to love not only the main characters, but several of the supporting ones as well, each of whom is brought to life with some TLC and attention to detail. Really cool detail.
Do I have any complaints about this title? You bet. It was suspended after 5 issues! Don’t ask me why, because it is one of the best comics I have read in years. Maybe it was due to the whole name lawsuit thingy, or maybe sales were bad, I dunno. The author loves this property, though, and so he is trying to continue it and bring it to other mediums as well, so we may not have seen the end of it quite yet. Till then, if you haven’t read it then it’s all new to you, right? So go out and get a copy of the trade paperback, ya mug, it’s worth it! I mean, it only costs a sawbuck. Plus a fin. That’s fifteen dollars in noir speak, right? Because it’s fifteen dollars.
This one gets 5 slugs to the belly out of 5, go get yer mitts on it!
1) Jason Rubin on Iron and the Maiden, Newsrama, September 21, 2006 via wikipedia.com
*Images courtesy of TopCow and Graphic Policy, for the full 30 page preview visit: Preview – The Iron Saint Volume 1 Trade Paperback Aug,2010