By Mike Badilla
Anytime I see a book description selling itself as "noir," I'm instantly more interested. Probably one of my favorite genres. That's not to say, however, that there isn't a metric ton of garbage out there labeled in this way. This book, in my opinion, is far from garbage. Dirty? Yes. Trash? No. Let's start from the very beginning; I love the cover. It looks exactly like those pulp noir novels, even down to the classic looking "Hard Case Crime" banner at the top. This looks like a book that would have been on a spinner rack 40 or so years ago, which hooked me instantly. Not only the classic look but the art on the cover is fantastic and makes you feel like you're right there in grimy [enter your favorite grimy city] on a rainy night in the shady part of town. Let's get to the story.
We begin in perhaps exactly where you would expect from a book called Peepland: a peep show. Guy goes in, gives some money to the girl (after she explains how the whole thing works), and the guy makes a deposit in the booth. We cut to a man with a VHS movie recorder over his shoulder running frantically down the city sidewalk, bumping into people and even tripping and dropping his camera, retrieving only the tape. He's being chased by a two men, but we don't know why. He slips into the peep show building and into the booth from before, and it is clear that the woman behind the glass (Roxy) and the man (Dicky) are familiar with each other. Dicky hides the tape inside the booth's seat and tells Roxy not to speak a word of him being there or the tape. He leaves the building and heads for the subway, still being tailed by the men, where he soon after meets his demise.
Roxy retrieves the tape and tells one of the other peep show ladies to hide it for her. The police arrive and start questioning the women and one eventually says that Dicky went into Roxy's room. She is arrested and questioned but claims that she couldn't see who came into her room because the glass was.... "obscured" by what the last patron had left behind. The police let her go and decide to focus more on the two men that were spotted tailing Dicky. Roxy gets the tape and goes home to take care of her uncle, who is very ill. She tells him about what happened, and he says to get rid of the tape. Instead of doing that, she decides to go to her ex-boyfriend and watch the tape with him.
I like this story so far. This is not by any means a new or fresh story, we have seen these tropes before. I happen to enjoy tropes if they're done right, and this one has enough fresh elements to make the story interesting. The art is also enjoyable; bright neon glows from the city signs and dark alleys where who knows what happens keeps me feeling very in the moment and injected into the story. Nice details like the Dead Kennedys shirt also keep me interested. Overall, I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes, and I'm hoping that they can keep the trope/fresh ratio to a good level.
Writers: Christa Faust & Gary Philips
Artist: Andrea Camerini
Publisher: Titan Comics