By Daniel Vlasaty
Hard Case Crime is one of my favorite publishers. They put out some great classic crime novels as well as modern day pulps. Recently, they have teamed up with Titan to release comic books, pairing crime writers with artists. I think this is awesome. And when I saw Megan Abbott’s name attached to this book, I was immediately pumped. I’ve read a few of her novels and think she’s a great writer. And I was interested to see her try her hand at writing a comic. Normandy Gold is co-written with Alison Gaylin, another crime writer. Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with her work, but will most likely be checking it out now after reading this comic book.
Normandy Gold reads like a cross between a noir thriller and a 70’s exploitation movie. A great combination when it’s done right. And here it’s pretty close to perfect. It tells the story of Normandy, a woman with a tumultuous past now working as a sheriff in Oregon. She gets a strange phone call from her sister, who she hasn’t seen or really spoken to in 12 years. During the phone call, Normandy ends up hearing her sister’s murder. This pushes Normandy to action and she travels to DC to infiltrate the prostitution right her sister was mixed up with. While this might not seem like the most original storyline, Abbott and Gaylin keep it fresh by giving Normandy a tough and harsh backstory. Which is expertly woven into to the story’s present day.
Normandy’s a strong woman. She’s had to be her whole life and now she’s able to deal with almost anything because of it. Our first look at her, she’s skinning a moose, and I think this does a really good job of introducing her to us. I think those first four panels are quite revealing. Especially with the narration going on over them. Throughout its entirety this book does not pull any punches. It shows the gritty side of 1970s DC. This is where the pulpiness of Hard Case Crime comes in. We’re shown all the things that Normandy’s willing to do to get to the bottom of her sister’s murder. From pulling a huge fucking buck knife on some sexist cops to much, much worse.
One issue I have with Normandy Gold is that it seems a bit rushed. A lot of stuff happens very quickly. But I never got the feeling of being lost or missing information. I get it, though. This is a 22-page comic book, as opposed to a 300+ page novel. Things need to get out quicker here. As a novelist myself I know that you get more time to build and grow and flow in a novel. I just thought the whole scene where her sister called her and then was immediately murder (while on the phone) was a bit gimmicky and rushed.
Steve Scott does the art, and I thought it was fitting for the story. It’s gritty and classic pulp noir. It really feels like something from the era it’s depicting. Like I’m watching one of those grainy 70s movies its inspired by. And I think Lovern Kindzierski’s color work only adds to it. There are some heavy shadows and a scratchiness to it that makes it look like something that’s been sitting on a shelf collecting dust the past few decades. But still, this never become too over-the-top. It’s there just enough to know what you’re looking for.
This is by no means a perfect book. But if you’re a crime fiction fan or a lover of gritty noir/revenge/exploitation movies I think you’ll find at least a few things to enjoy here. I’m excited to follow Normandy’s story and have to say that this one feels like it’s going to be the better of the Hard Case Crime/Titan books. And that’s saying a lot because I enjoy the others as well.
Normandy Gold #1