Ibrahim Moustafa’s cover says it all: Zan is well and truly in the mouth of hell in issue 7 of High Crimes. Who knew the mouth of hell was about halfway up the world’s tallest mountain, surrounded by government spooks who are trying to kill you? Although I will agree that sounds hellish. And cold. Moustafa and Sebela once again decided to cut my heart out and make me look at it with this issue. They’re getting good, perhaps a little too good, at finding all the happy in Zan’s life and taking it away from her with gusto. We all want to root for Zan. She’s a woman who made mistakes and who won’t let herself be forgiven, even though the world at large has probably forgotten. I don’t know what’s going to happen when she gets to the top of Everest, but with every issue I get more certain that she’s going to die and that it will be more than a little bit her own fault, and that depresses me, but in an oddly good way. I’m sure there’s a French word for it, something that means, “I’ve just heard the saddest story, but it was well-told, and so I am happy.”
With this issue, Moustafa and Sebela have stepped up their game even more in terms of their visual storytelling. You know how sometimes you can tell when a writer is over- or under-writing to his artist, and the finished product comes out mixed-up and contradictory, and it’s a slog to get through? Sebela and Moustafa say “nerts” to that kind of collaboration and get better each issue. This issue is one of those perfect comics that you could probably take all of the dialogue out, and it would still make sense. It wouldn’t be as much fun, because Sebela’s voices for Mars and Zan are both extremely fun, and in this issue he brought back the head of the team that took Haskell, who is just an incorrigible douchebag, the kind that’s truly a joy to hate.
Moustafa’s art continues to amaze. You’d think I’d get tired of looking at a drawing of what could be the most majestic sight in the world, but every time he draws someone with Everest in the background, he captures the majesty and he captures the danger. He never loses focus on faces and gesture, and he manages to convey the pathos at the end of this issue on Zan’s face. It’s not going to break her, but it’s certainly another extremely large crack in the psyche of a drug addict who is losing the battle on a fucking mountain. Could there be higher stakes? I mean, all I’m coming up with is this exact same series, except they’re descending into an active volcano and everyone knows they’re gonna burn up and die, but they keep walking.
My only beef with this series isn’t a beef with the series, it’s with the platform. I love Comixology 90% of the time, what with the portability of so many more comics, and the ability to more easily discover the new, indie type books. What I don’t love is that the Guided View settings are kind of wonky and they don’t show you the page as a whole. Part of the joy of comics is the metapanel, where you look at the page in toto and you can see the lines of flow across the page, and you can see the repeating images like the first two panels of this issue. With Guided View, those get broken up by narrative caption, so the repeated images at the top are jarring instead of a conceptual edit from past to future. (And yes, I know you can change it to show you the whole page first, then jump into Guided View, but who’s got the time??)
I’m not saying anything new, you guys. High Crimes is the action-adventure-drama-sports-mountain comic we needed, but not the one we deserved. And by some miracle, it delivers every month. If you’re not reading it, I mean... there’s a reason these guys got nominated for not one, but two Eisners.
Writer: Christopher Sebela Artist: Ibrahim Moustafa Publisher: Monkey Brain Comics Price: $0.99 Release Date: 6/4/14 Format: Digital Purchase Link: http://cmxl.gy/1mGMf4p