Displaced Persons is one of the best comic books I have read. Ever. Not just the best of the week or the month or even the year, but ever. It’s a story that is complex to understand and yet easy to explain. The problem is that once you explain it, some of the magic is gone from reading it. I’ll do my best not to ruin it for you. The story opens in 1879 with a man who calls himself Emperor Norton banging on the door of an orphanage run by nuns in the middle of the night. The nuns give him grief because he does everything like a declaration of some kind, point in fact he’s hammering a letter to the door. It’s quickly revealed that he’s found a naked child wandering the nearby park.
The story which only takes place in San Francisco moves to 1939 and the introduction of Garland Price. He’s retired from the police force and now works as a Private Investigator. The Depression is in full force and so he’s having a hard time making ends meet for his family. To his fortune a high-profile job comes his way via an ex-police officer. The client is Adam Hayes, a vengeful man who has made a fortune running liquor from Canada to the U.S. during the Prohibition era and is now a “legitimate businessman.” The job is to find his missing daughter and bring him back the property that she has in her possession. Let’s just say that things are not what they appear to be.
The story doesn’t stay here in 1939, but rather in continues to move forward and occasionally backwards. It does stick with Price’s family and the many generations that follow.
Unfortunately without telling you what the catch is I won’t be able to do this story justice, but I’m okay with that because once you figure it out you’ll be as excited and thrilled by this story as I was. Writer Derek McCulloch weaves an intricate tale and eventually you’ll pick up on what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean you’ll hold all the answers. His plotting is masterful.
Clearly McCulloch did a lot of research for this story as it’s interwoven with history from beginning to end. There’s a large cast of characters that goes with that as well and each of them have their own unique voice. They are also era appropriate, but what’s even better about that is that we see several characters at different ages and they maintain their voice be it a bit different.
The art makes this story work. Without Anthony Peruzzo this story just isn’t as successful as it is. He’s the lynchpin that makes the intricacies of McCulloch’s story pan out. He too must have done a lot of research to make sure that the characters and eras were represented accurately. Since the story is centered on a family over generations the task of making them look like a family fell to Peruzzo and he does a masterful job. To the inexperienced eye it may appear that the characters all kind of look the same, but you have to keep in mind that they’re family and family has the tendency to look similar.
Peruzzo does a wonderful job on the coloring as well, but don’t expect traditional coloring by any means. There’s a single hue used for the different decades, but there are flashes of color when called for in the story. It’s the right coloring for the story and works wonderfully to capture the different eras.
Here’s the thing about Displaced Person; it’s the type of story you want to figure out, but when you do figure it out that doesn’t stop you from trying to learn more. In fact this review took me twice the amount of time it usually takes me because I was distracted by it once more. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth throughout the story making sure I had all the pieces right. I even did a google search for some of the details. A google search! It’s been a long time since I’ve been so engulfed with a story that I did that.
The point is this is a phenomenal comic book that people will likely be talking about soon if they aren’t already. It’s an incredible story, but more so it’s an incredible comic book. Would it work in another medium? Maybe, but I’m glad that it’s a comic book first and foremost.
Writer: Derek McCulloch Artist: Anthony Peruzzo Publisher: Image Comics Price: $17.99 Release Date: 8/19/14 Format: OGN; Paperback