Blending cyberpunk and noir is generally reserved for Blade Runner. Alex Paknadel’s Turncoat is an exception. Instead of androids trying to mask themselves as human, we are confronted with an alien empire that has left Earth in shambles. Turncoat is a clever, entertaining, and endlessly stylish noir tale set in an alien ruled future where the bad guys are slimy and the city is slimier.
Five years after humanity has overthrown the Alien empire, known simply as The Management, that had been ruling Earth for three hundred years, things begin to resume a sense of normality. Much like any long standing empire, The Management’s culture lingers long after their departure. Humanity at this point has only ever known their influence, and after the revolution, many humans have no idea what to do without their overlords. Artist Artyom Trakhanov does an excellent job portraying a gritty city that is alien and human. New York is covered in fungus, alien language, and strange technology, these things add to a dark atmosphere that contributes an incredible amount to the feel of the comic. After all, in noir, Los Angeles is often described as one of the characters, so Turncoat’s version of New York should be just as vibrant.
The best neo-noir recalls a certain feeling, a nostalgic idea that can’t exactly be grasped. Often neo-noir stories have the opportunity to alter the genre in some way. This can prove difficult as noir is such a classic genre that tampering with the formula can prove disastrous. The classic tropes are all present in Turncoat, but that adds to its charm. Sometimes you want that noir movie that turns everything upside down, but sometimes you just want a good old fashioned crime story, and Turncoat is that and more. Trakhanov’s art brings to mind Brandon Graham and James Stokoe, combining highly frenetic action scenes with gruesome alien technology that takes over everything. This comic brings to mind the fun of Heavy Metal Magazine when European sci-fi delighted U.S. readers with its bizarro stories and art. This is especially true at times when Artyom’s art channels Moebius’ brilliantly strange futuristic worlds.
The plot of Turncoat is nothing too original. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for by sticking to a traditional noir story. The fun part is that Paknadel takes these tropes and wraps them up in this gross sci-fi setting. What starts as a missing persons case ends up being much more, and as the story begins to unravel, Detective Gonzalez gets a lot more than she bargained for. Slowly pulling apart a conspiracy that makes the human Resistance look like the bad guys.
I don’t read many BOOM! comics but maybe I should start. Judging this comic by its synopsis and the cover I gave it a chance, and I’m glad I did. Turncoat is a rich crime thriller that would make Raymond Chandler proud, especially if he was into cyberpunk. With a dark, moody story, and art that oozes creativity, this book will definitely fit on your shelf with Prophet, Orc Stain, and back issues of Heavy Metal.
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Paknadel & Trakhanov's Turncoat #2 Writer: Alex Paknadel Artist: Artyom Trakhanov Colorist: Jason Wordie Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: Print: $3.99 Release Date: 4/20/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital