Review: High Crimes #1

This review has been a long time coming. I bought the issue and read it on the day of its release, but the most I got around to doing with it is mentioning on the podcast. With the second issue hitting this week I knew that I needed to talk about this series before reading that issue. It’s definitely one of the best digital comics I’ve picked up and the concept is unlike anything else you’re likely to read all year. We begin 28,894 feet above sea level on the southeast ridge leading to the tip of Mr. Everest. A dead body lies in the snow and a man dressed in all red stands just looking at it. He removes the glove of the dead man and begins to cut his hand off. Afterwards he puts the hand and any belongings he can find on the man in a bag and then rejoins his group. You’re thinking, “What the hell did he do that for?” He and his partner that we’ll meet in a minute, take the hands of dead people so that they can find out who they are and then ask for a large sum of money from their families to return the body to them. It’s deranged, it’s sick, but you know what? It’s a pretty cool idea.

High_Crimes_01.inddAfter that we take a trip to the Olympics to watch snowboarder Zan as she makes a run for gold, only to try to pull off a trick and wipe out losing to her opponent and becoming a laughing-stock of the internet and subsequently recognized wherever she goes. She wakes up in a drug den after having that same dream of her failure yet again. She’s run away from her life as far as possible and now is a guide up the mountain. While hanging out in her favorite local bar she’s recognized by a tourist, but her friend Sophie is quick to jump in their face to stop them from making Zan’s life a more of a hell.

From there her partner Haskell fetches her so they can get to work. He was the man in Red we saw earlier; they take to the task of finger printing the new hands after a long lecture in which Zan is scolded for leaving the safe open. Afterwards, Haskell takes off to meet his police contact that will run all of the fingerprints for him. That’s when this simple crime story in an exotic setting takes a turn for the crazy.

The concept of this story alone is fucking awesome and is one of those ideas that show how amazing the comic book medium is. Sure you could possibly adapt this story into a movie, but the budget would be huge and everyone would just call it Cliffhanger 2. Because it’s a comic book we’re taken to the mountain, we’re taken to the Olympics and every setting is real. The writing is fantastic and builds a mystery that at the moment has no clear answers. The reader has no idea where this story is going to go; only that it’s destined to get ugly. The dialog is very strong and shows that you can have a chatty book and not have it be boring or have too much dialog. Every bit of dialog is interesting and important as it paints a picture of the character’s personality for us and is very realistic.

The art is also an absolute treat. Not only are the variety of settings very realistic, but the characters are as well. This series doesn’t need to be adapted into a movie because it already looks like one. The panel presentation is dramatic and captures the intensity of any given scene. The opening alone had me hooked on the entire series; seriously, I was sold right then and there. One of my favorite scenes was between Haskell and Zan as they finger printed the hands of the dead and how nonchalant it was for them. You can see it on their faces and in their body language that this is old hat to them and that’s because of the skillful visually storytelling at work.

I regret not reviewing this series sooner so that people could have been prepared for the second issue like I was, but here we are now. You can check out both issues for just two bucks and I can say that this one is well worth it. I’ll be getting to my review of the second issue much sooner, but I’m pretty sure that Monkey Brain has another hit on their hands.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Christopher Sebela Artist: Ibrahim Moustafa Publisher: Monkey Brain Comics Price: $.99 Release Date: 1/30/13