Review: San Hannibal #1

Earlier this week we posted a trailer for San Hannibal and let me tell you… it didn’t do this series justice. That’s not to say that the trailer was bad; quite the opposite actually as it did a great job of building interest in this story. It’s just that this issue is better than I could have imagined. Take everything you know about the P.I. genre and put it into San Hannibal; it’s all there, but the catch is that it’s executed with more skill than you’ve ever seen before. It’s as if the creators took all the genre’s tropes and used them, but cranked them to eleven on a knob that only went up to nine. The story is set in the fictional city of San Hannibal which has a retro futuristic look to it. It’s hard not to fall in love with the aesthetics of the comic because of the look and design. We’re introduced to our P.I. without an office, named Avery. He meets his potential client Mrs. Corrigan at a place she describes as awful. This is more than likely intentional as we soon learn that Avery is a highly intelligent P.I.

If it’s not a cheating husband it’s a missing person which is why Mrs. Corrigan is there. She wants to track down her missing friend Savannah Loy that seems to have disappeared and been written off by the system. Avery takes the case and instantly dives into Savannah Loy’s life in the days leading up to her disappearance.

Avery’s narration is killer. Not only is the character well-spoken and interesting, but he’s sharp. I wouldn’t say that he’s Sherlockian, but he does break down Loy’s apartment like an expert and frankly it was refreshing for him not to be doing the Sherlock shtick. In a way he’s living her life in order to find out what’s happened to her. There’s also something incredibly fearless about his character. With all P.I. stories you can assume that the story is going to grow in danger and mystery and it seems that Avery is going to be well equipped to handle both.

San Hannibal #1-1As I said the story uses a lot of the P.I. tropes, but what makes it different and keeps it from feeling like a rehash is the style of the narration. Dan Schkade makes sure that Avery’s narration is focused on what’s in front of him. It’s not cluttered with Avery’s feelings and distractions, but rather the facts of situation.

The dialogue is very natural, it never comes across as Avery being cheeky for the sake of the genre but rather it’s just the way he is. This story relies on mystery and with that comes mysterious characters that answer in half-truths and reflect questions like light off a mirror. Schkade keeps these characters from just being tropes with their honest dialogue and Avery’s intelligence. In most P.I. stories the main character is usually getting played and doesn’t know it, but happens to solve the crime. Here, everything that Avery does in on his terms so far. That alone is refreshing.

The entire issue is presented in three colors. That’s not to say that there are hues of all three colors in the book, but rather just black, white and a fuchsia esque color and no other shades in-between. JD Faith is magnificent on this issue. The coloring aside for a moment, Faith’s breakdowns are bold and dynamic. Every aspect of this issue is wonderful to look at. Again the design and aesthetic was has a huge draw for me personally. There’s something magical about a world that is both advanced and ancient at the same time. What plays into that is the character designs as they too have a retro-futuristic look to them. There’s a really feeling of culture at play in this story and that comes to us from Faith’s artwork.

Going back to the coloring, Faith turns an already impressive issue into a wonderful visual treat. The contrasts of the three colors work wonderfully together; rather than looking simplistic each panel becomes a complex dance of lighting and shadowing. Again it’s just three colors and yet it’s visually exciting the entire time you’re reading it.

With every series the question at the end of the issue is not about the book itself, rather it’s whether you’ll return for the next issue or not. Not only do I want to return to San Hannibal, I wish I never had to leave.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Dan Schkade Artist: JD Faith Letterer: Jesse Snavlin Publisher: Pop! Goes The Icon Price: $2.99 Website