By Justin McCarty
Deadbeat is a personal, small-scale crime story. Jed McPherson and Chris Shehan have given us a crime story with a southwest feel, told with mood and gritty style. It’s a one-shot that keeps its world small to tell a story of second chances. If you have only ever managed to make the wrong decision, you will take all the chances you can get to make the right one. That’s sort of the nature of being a screw-up. Deadbeat is everyone that wanted to do the right thing despite not knowing how.
Mikey is a career criminal that also took a chance at having a family. Mikey can’t seem to take his life seriously enough though to really get it together. At one point his daughter happens to be playing with his gun. After a scolding by the mother and his girlfriend, he realizes his mistake, but he still wants to take a picture of it. To him, that was a Kodak moment. It’s twenty some odd years later and that now estranged daughter has contacted him for a robbery she has planned. Mikey sees this as his chance to show her he can be there for her. But things don’t go as planned and once again he’s running from his priorities.
This story is a lot of fun, though not entirely perfect, and if you like a crime story focusing on the down and out type characters you’ll definitely be entertained. The secondary characters don’t seem as fully realized as the lovable loser Mikey, though. I loved the art in this book, it really sets the tone, it matches well with the story, but it is a little inconsistent, particularly in the diner scenes. You can’t help but sympathize with Mikey and his lovable attitude. The opening page right away sets the tone for the book. Mikey is looking through a fence at a plane that just left the runway. “Well, fuck. I think that’s my plane.”, he says. It’s clear Mikey is running away. Or trying to.
There is a sketched quality to the art style that really brings the book down to earth. The framing of the characters always has the view eye level putting us on the same level as the characters. Nothing overly dramatic. The artwork shows us who Mikey is as a person. The world is detailed and textured without distracting from the characters. The grey-toned colors add to the mood of the book, surprisingly it makes the lives of the characters feel more real. The recurring dark chain link fence shows us a Mikey trapped by his past and mistakes. There was some inconsistency with some backgrounds, mostly with the diner scenes. The diner booth seemed to change size, which was somewhat distracting.
The characterizations work, but we aren’t given much reason to sympathize with Mikey’s daughter, Laurie. She’s the antagonist for sure, but Mikey is so likable that she just comes off mean, not a disappointed daughter that grew up without her dad. Her development is meaningful though. Mikey is that deadbeat friend everyone had growing up. The one you knew just wasn’t going to go anywhere but everyone loved because he was so much fun. Laurie’s boyfriend was a bit of a miss for me. He was really just another deadbeat man in her life, he seems superfluous to me. Another unnecessary character is Mikey’s buddy, also a deadbeat, that shows up about midway through the book. He seems to have no real purpose in the story. He only appears for a few panels, adding nothing to Mikey's story.
Here is a crime book that really makes you feel for the protagonist. Mikey is a loser of the best kind. Deep down he’s good. He just makes some bad judgment calls. If you like crime stories with a little heart here is one I can really recommend. It’s not perfect, but in just a few short pages you really connect with Mikey. Deadbeats make some of the best characters.
Jed McPherson and Chris Shehan