Review: Red Handed – The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

Matt Kindt is one of the comic industries greatest creators… ever. He’s already left his mark with his ongoing series Mind MGMT at Dark Horse and now he’s releasing a hardcover book entitled Red Handed from First Second Printing. This book is genius and I don’t know if I’ll even be able to explain a fraction of what’s happening in this story, but I’m going to give a shot. I couldn’t possible give the book a review such as, “buy and read it for yourself… you’ll see how great it is.” No, that simply won’t fly for something as marvelous as Kindt’s creation.

If I were to explain this in the simplest way possible I would say that it’s an argument about right and wrong and if blindly following the law to the “T” makes you a good person or just an observer to other people’s struggles. Of course it’s also incredibly difficult to say that that is all that it’s about. As with Kindt’s other works, it’s about the people in the story as much as it is anything else. What’s also common in the material Kindt produces, he uses several layers of plot and interconnecting relationships to show how connected everyone in the world really is. I wasn’t being facetious when I said that this book was marvelous, I whole heartedly meant it.

The story opens with a women quitting her job at a diner and walking out with one of the bar stools. When she gets home she begins narrating about her life and it’s important because she has a collection of stolen chairs… a massive collection. From there she decides to call in some favors and heads to a prison where she steals the electric chair. As her chapter of the story ends she tells the reader that she thinks this will be her last one.

The next story is titled “Jigsaw.” It follows a man as he seduces a woman and becomes a part of her life all so that he can steal a painting from her home. The man is emotionless with his narration and tells the reader that he’s essentially acting for the sake of the role and has no real interest in relationships and it’s clear that the only feeling he has is emptiness. He takes the painting one night after the woman has fallen asleep and simply puts it in the back of his convertible and drives off. Then instead of selling the painting or even keeping it for himself; he cuts it up into small paintings and sells those pieces. It’s so well received and he makes so much more money off of it that he buys more pieces and does the same thing over and over.  Eventually though, he’s caught by our main character of the story Detective Gould, for the original crime that started his career as the woman finally turns him in.

It’s important to let you know the ending of that story and Detective Gould’s involvement because the entire book actually revolves around him. He and one other character are what make the story so interconnected. We cut to a conversation which also becomes the norm after each individual tale has completed. This is where the debate of right and wrong happens and both sides of the argument are very convincing which only works to prove that everything is not so black and white.

After that we move on to a new character and discover what their criminal habit it is. It’s just before the half way point in the book that you should be able to see what’s unfolding before your eyes and when you do it’s magical. You’ll know something is happening, but it won’t be until that last chapter or so that you’ll have all the pieces and be able to clearly see the outcome.

Kindt’s writing is genius for this story. I don’t use that word lightly either, he literally inspires me with each new tale that he creates and the precision in which this story is executed is amazing. The fact that one man could write and draw everything and have it turn out as well as it did is just baffling to me; he’s just an amazing talent. I don’t know if he had to research a lot of different subjects for this story or if he was able to create a tale out of his own worldly experience, either way the complexity of the tale is unlike anything I’ve read in comic before and it’s likely to become an instant classic.

This is a story I would gladly sit and watch someone else read just to watch their face and study their expressions as the story unfolds in front of them. The conversation pages are also fantastic and honestly if the entire book had been in the same style I would have read and enjoyed it. The battle of morals is believable and yet neither side manages to come off preachy or dominate; plus when everything tied to it is revealed it quickly becomes another feather in the cap of an already great story.

With Mind MGMT the world has had a healthy monthly dose of Kindt’s art style, but with Red Handed it’s actually a bit different. It’s far cleaner with smoother line work and delicate water coloring. Even more impressive is the range of panel sizes used throughout the story. There are times that the story diverts  to the past or to Detective Gould’s life and the art switches to a newspaper comic strip look which looks very different from Kindt’s usual style. The contrast between the regular story and Gould’s detective pages clearly establish that Gould is living in a black and white world and that he has no exceptions to the law. That’s not exactly something you’ll pick up on until much later in the story. If for some reason you’re not a huge fan of Kindt’s style on Mind MGMT, I would still recommend giving this book a chance because the style and design is different and suits this particular story.

I know that the cliché for every great book is that the reader is unable to put it down once they begin. I’ve actually rarely found this to be true because there is always something to pull you away from a book; it’s just how life works. I will say that I continued to read this book while my wife watched TV, while we ate dinner and while I walked back and forth between rooms while performing a variety of tasks. I did everything I could to make sure that I wouldn’t be away from the book and while I soaked up every page I feel deeper and deeper into the fictional world that Kindt was creating and it was fantastic. This is definitely a book to keep your eye on and you can bet that I won’t be quick to forget its impact.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Matt Kindt

Publisher: First Second Publishing

Price: $26.99

Release Date: 5/7/13