Review: Chin Music #2

To be frank (“but your name’s Steve!”), when I first read Chin Music #2, I didn’t dig it. I’m not sure why; you’d think a story about otherworldly vigilantes set in prohibition era Chicago would immediately appeal, especially when you see the names attached to it. But when I put it down, something felt choked or clunky about the story, like it was having a hard time keeping up with the dynamism of the art. However, on subsequent readings for this review, I have to say that this issue has grown on me, and provided it doesn’t take another three months for its successor to come out, I think I can see myself really getting into Chin Music ... which is my new favorite euphemism for oral sex by the way.

This issue follows Eliot Ness as he investigates the seemingly impossible assassination of big Al Capone, who tragically passed away after complications from the magic bullet head wound he contracted last issue. All of Ness’ evidence points to the mysterious private detective Shaw, who we last saw, in his previous life, moonlighting as some kind of mummy genie zombie thing. Featuring a bit of tasteful cunnilingus and not a small amount of slaughterous mafioso reprisal, Chin Music #2 is a sexy little supernatural ride through an already dangerously interesting period, and it works pretty damn well.

The writing here is simple and hits with a blunt thud, like a slapjack to the back of the skull. It may not be too pretty, but it also doesn’t need to be. This is street-level stuff here; sure there are powers at play both higher and lower, but so far this book is still huddled beneath its cracked asphalt exterior, and that’s okay. Any gap in text is completely swallowed and forgotten within the real star of Chin Music, Tony Harris’ art.

chinmusic02_coverFuck me, this guy’s stuff has some proper stink rubbed on it, huh? Visually, this book pops large while casting a vast shadow. I love how his characters and their world have this hand-blown glass texture about them, and how he challenges each of his pages with daring composition, vacillating through a broad range of blistering, aggressive color. You’d be forgiven for thinking that at any minute, bullets and blood might come tumbling from the page.

Altogether, it’s a dizzying visual experience, and it comes together like magic throughout most of the book, only occasionally sacrificing a measure of clarity and flow. I was particularly baffled by the scene which features Shaw’s penis quite prominently. Is that actually him? I assume so, given what else happens, but if so, where did all of his tattoos go? It could be an astral projection or something, I’m not sure, but I admit it threw me for a loop. It was one of the rare times I felt a little lost in this book, but I was easily able to jump back on with a valiant cry of “eh, whatever.”

I’m a changed man from Chin Music’s first issue and Image can officially count me in as on-board. Last time was an ill-plotted, convoluted mess without much help in its backstory, but in this, its second issue, the series seems to have found its footing. I’m hoping that the third issue will see the art and story congealing more organically and that Niles continues to more purposefully chart his course, as he has done here. If they do, I’ll be making sweet music with this book again, sooner (hopefully) rather than later.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Steve Niles

Artist: Tony Harris

Publisher: Image Comics

Price $2.99

Release Date: 8/21/13