A couple weeks ago I was stumbling around different indie publishers’ sites to try and find a new book to follow. On BOOM! Studio’s homepage, I was able to find a comic that I was stoked to check out (even if it was just based on the cover.) When I saw it up for grabs to review for Comic Bastards, I was even more excited. After a read-through, I can say that Hit #1 is a refreshingly unique story that any fan of dark crime/drama owe themselves to check out. The story follows homicide detective Harvey Slater in Los Angeles during 1955. We find out very quickly that once the sun goes down, he’s something very different-a hitman. Along with a few other LAPD members, they secretly form a “hit squad.” In the back of the book, writer Bryce Carlson sheds some light about these hit squads: “Cops. Honest-to-goodness officers of the law track-ing gangsters to mundane everyday locations where nothing criminal was going on and simply eliminating the problem…” Vigilante justice has always intrigued me, and this book serves it up in a chillingly realistic and gruesome way.
Before the comic starts, there’s a newspaper excerpt that gives a bit of a back-story; it explains why you see this hit squad going after Karlo “The Shark” Infantino. He allegedly killed Frederick Mills, who, along with Karlo, were known to be associated with real-life LA gangster/Jewish mafia member Mickey Cohen. Karlo also killed Frederick’s wife Dolores, who was seven months pregnant at the time. Now when I say these guys in the LAPD are hitmen, they’re no Agent 47. Slater and his guys take out The Shark and his goons with brute force. They literally walk in the front door, and Slater guns down their target. Other ways of murdering the goons out included barbed wire garroting and meat hook stabbings.
Jimmy Gomes shoots the bartender with a shotgun, but the job was botched as the bartender is recovering in the hospital. Keep in mind that this all happens within a few pages-there is so much more going on, and too many things that would totally ruin the story that I’ll just leave you with these tidbits of information: Slater beats up his ex-partner and leaves him handcuffed to his own squad car for basically calling his mom a whore, and by the end of the book he has 15 pounds of baja reefer outside his apartment (that was smuggled in a very unconventional way, I might add). Slater also is tasked with protecting his commanding officer’s daughter, who, let’s just say she can take care of herself. It leaves off on an immense cliffhanger, and I’m already excited for next month’s issue.
The art in this book seems love-or-hate to me. I absolutely love it. It’s kind of hard to explain: to me it seems almost minimalistic. There’s nothing flashy, and there’s no overdone aspects with it. There’s also a lot going on art-wise; I’ll be on the look-out for any details I missed when I read through it again. It’s aesthetically pleasing and fits the tone of the book perfectly, as well as the time period. I also love the different angles that are depicted during the different scenes. The blood and gore in the crime scenes are gritty and unsettling, but the art itself is very beautiful. Everything from the low-lit bar where The Shark was gunned down to the personality of the different characters is brought to life through artist Vanesa R. Del Rey.
It’s clear that a lot of research and love for the crime genre went into this project, and it shows. It’s pretty astonishing to me that events just like these actually took place. I love everything about this book and can’t wait for issue two next month. I have some burning questions, too: who’s narrating the comic? Will the bartender snuff out the hit squad’s operation? (And many more which I can’t list or else I’ll give too much away) Until then, I’m going to read through my review copy a few more times before picking it up at my local shop, and I highly recommend you do too. [Insert pun about this book being a potential hit here]
Writer: Bryce Carlson Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey Publisher: Boom Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/4/13