I've never been a huge fan of Ed Brubaker, but in the last three reviews I've written, I've ended up referencing his work as a gold standard to be lived up to. When it comes to pulpy, gritty noir stories filled with cops, criminals, and killers, it's hard not to compare to Brubaker's excellent library of such stories. I say all this because I think if I hadn't read Brubaker's work, I might be a little more enthusiastic about Andy Diggle's new noir mini-series 'Control' from Dynamite Entertainment. It's a solid book with a few notable weaknesses (the art is rough, but we'll get to that), and I generally enjoyed it quite a bit. But it's also nothing I have not seen many times before, usually written a little more sharply. Control follows a couple of cops operating in Washington DC who are called in as backup to two officers engaged in a firefight. As it turns out, the officers have interrupted a criminal torturing a man for information while getting ready to frame his death as a suicide. The one surviving officer is detective Kate Burnham whose dedication to handling the crime scene correctly gets her separated from her over-eager partner who is killed. In the wake of this mess, she is put in charge of figuring out just what is going on. As a final, added twist, it is indicated a few times that the crime in question may have something to do with a Senator trying to pass a bill making the private lives of politicians confidential.
It's a pretty solid setup that runs along at a decent clop before ending on a pleasantly bizarre, graphic final image. The problem is, it's also sort of cliché to have a book about a tough as nails female detective (bonus points for there to be jokes about her being a lesbian) who has to deal with her boorish peers while attempting to get to the bottom of criminal investigation that threatens to skid off the rails at any moment. Throughout the issue, I kept hoping some new, strange, unexpected element might show up to make this something more than a run-of-the-mill cop story. That afore-mentioned final image, which I won't spoil, indicates some interesting directions things might go in future issues, but for the moment, there's not a lot to differentiate Control.
Actually, to be perfectly honest, there is something to differentiate 'Control', some really ugly artwork. Andrea Mutti's style reminds me of the late-90s gritty Vertigo work that seemed to revel a little too much in its own ugliness. Actually, that's a little unfair as there are parts of Control that Mutti brings to life nicely including some great DC backdrops, but his humans are so ugly that they resemble misshapen monsters as often as living creatures. With the sole exception of Detective Burnham, the faces of each characters are at once too-simple and oddly warped, like half-finished sketches that have been inked and colored without first revising them into finished forms. This, coupled with the choice to color the issue in flat greys and browns makes for a book that is hard to look at.
For those keeping score, I'd say that make Control #1 something of a wash. On the pros side we have a solid story that, while not transcending any clichés, is entertaining and well paced. On the cons side is some over-familiar plotting and ugly art. For fans of crime stories, I'd recommend giving it a shot, but for someone getting into that genre for the first time, this is probably not the place to start.
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