Review: The Butcher of Banner Cross #1

Utterly dreadful. You don't even have to read further, this is a pathetic book and even analysis is a waste of time. It doesn't have the arrogance of 'Lone Star Soul's marketing strategy or the illiterate pretension of 'Paragon'. Instead, it's just a waste in every regard. The latest murder mystery from...jesus I can't even decode the damn company logo. CD Comics? OI Comics? Drunk Q Comics? Ech. From ? Comics, the publisher of another book about murder and illegible lettering Spring-Heeled Jack, a comic so unforgivably ugly and unreadable that I recommended we simply not cover it here at Bastards at all. The only reason I'm bothering to review Banner Cross is because where Jack was almost ironically hideous, at least the artist here isn't totally untalented. I can't tell if Chatri is supposed to be a silly Cher-like penname or intended to be more on the lines of Alan Smithee, but in either case his art is the only thing close to acceptable in this book. He does some interesting shots and experimental paneling that while by no means groundbreaking, are at least occasionally aesthetically interesting. Let's not confuse this with outright praise however, most of it lacks professional polish and is often quite ugly, but even so, he deserves a better script than this.

The book reads like a Sherlock Holmes short story and there are numerous cudgel blunt allusions to the Baker Street Detective. A woman is murdered, hacked into perfect segments, the body parts arranged ritualistically with the organs stolen. An overwhelming amount of this long dreck is spent methodically taking us through the initial crime scene walkthrough by our Holmes surrogate, a detective nicknamed Punchline (real name, who gives a shit). However, where Holmes was a hero for strict rationalism and an enemy of superstition, our Punchline immediately announces the killer's origin as supernatural and proceeds to punctuate every other observation with 'it isn't human'. The author shows us just how very clever he is, outlining precise details about the crime, the crime scene, the witnesses, the timeline, all of the parts of a whodunnit. We even are informed at what date the police helicopter we get a bird's-eye-view from at one point first lifted off (December, 2003).

Butcher of Banner Cross #1Unfortunately, this is all immediately negated by the pronouncement of the killer's powers of invisibility, super strength, and enormous size. Where Holmes would elaborate on how such supernatural feats were possible within the realms of reality, here it is flatly understood that 'bump-in-the-night' is a usual suspect for these cops, making the sheer amount of police work we have to tolerate brutally useless. The fun in a murder mystery is how the author crafts a puzzle which the reader is then taken through to the logical answer, preferably with the reader trying to figure out the answer for themselves before the story explains it to them. It makes the act of reading more participatory, and can make the payoff of revelation more satisfying if the reader was given a chance but was respectfully confounded by the answer. Here, any pretense of forensic detail is evidence of the author's love for 'real-crime' stories and his equal passion for stroking his shriveled cleverness in front of other people.

I hate this book. There are movies about people who hate like this.

Let's add on top of this that, just like Spring-Heeled Jack, it is unreadable from a lettering standpoint. The font is fine, and the letters don't touch the borders, so two out of three of the your-basic-fucking-job of lettering is approximately met. However, there is no attempt at organizing the bubbles in order of speaking. Your eye might zig-zag back and forth across the panel like a rude dangerous child on a skate rink. You may try to read up and down on the panel with the precision of a flatbed scanner. For fun, try reading the word bubbles out of order and see if it changes anything. There is so much dialogue, so little wit or character, and on top of it this high-school prose novel has no discernible order in which the sentences instill meaning on each other. The characters largely look the same; two of them have the same haircut and the artist isn't skilled enough to really grant distinct facial features without making the character fat or wearing make-up, so you may lose track of who is supposed to be talking and why. One panel, with the unrepentant gall of a man squeezing dry rabbit turd shit on the lap of an elderly retired nurse, even has word bubbles in one panel that are being spoken in another panel, featuring the little bubble tail hopping over the panel gutter with an idiot's smirk.

It's one thing to write a bad comic. It's another to write one that doesn't understand how its genre works. Furthermore, to write one that is ugly, artless, devoid of even meager entertainment, and as utterly selfish as father tinkering with his model train set while in the corner his pre-teen son quietly makes dark foul smelling burns on his arm with a Zippo. AND THEN. To make it hard to read.

My snark might make it sound like I cruelly enjoyed writing this review. Surprise, I don't like writing bad reviews, even though I do it more often than not. People have this perception that critics get no greater pleasure than shitting on a substandard work. Maybe some do, I don't. I love comics. I love comics most when they reward me for that love, the contract between a medium and its adherents. Doing this however, is a waste of time. If I review a book like this at all (which in my current position at Bastards sort of necessitates) then the lack of merit only leaves me with explaining why this book made me feel worse than I already did. Life is too short to waste more time than you have to with books like this, so do yourself a favor and steer clear of comic companies that you can't even read the logo of.

Score: 1/5 

Writer: Craig Daley Artist: Chatri Publisher: CD Comics