As someone who is fascinated by Russian history and the Cold War era, I was expecting The White Suits to be right up my alley. It follows the story of FBI agent Sarah Anderson as she attempts to track down the mysterious White Suits, a gang who savaged the Russian underworld in the days of the Cold War, and also the people who killed her father. She is joined by an amnesiac called Prizrak who is somehow connected to the group as well, and together they aim to find them and take them down. The premise had me interested, but unfortunately it just wasn’t very well pulled off in these four issues. In the end, while this book has some good moments, I was generally quite bored reading it and struggled to get to the end. The main problem with The White Suits is the characters. In the first issue we’re told a lot about our lead protagonist Sarah Anderson, how she was devastated by the loss of her father, and how she joined the FBI to get the information she needed to find the gang that killed him. But while this back-story could have been compelling, it’s glossed over in the space of one issue and a few expository boxes of dialogue, and so it ended up feeling dull. Plus, the way that Anderson’s one and only goal in life appeared to be “kill the White Suits” left her feeling very one-note and uninteresting, not to mention almost wholly unrelatable. Our other protagonist Prizrak suffers from amnesia so there’s no past to find out about until late in the book, but writer Frank J. Barbiere gives us no reason to feel sympathetic towards the character. A character with amnesia works well when the audience wants to know about what happened, and wants to see the character get their life back on track. Unfortunately I felt neither about Prizrak, not only did I find myself not interested in finding out about him but he also displayed so little character that there was no real reason to get on his side as the story unfolded.
Additionally there were a lot of supporting characters in this book, from the members of the gang that Anderson and Prizrak become allies with, to the White Suits themselves. Unfortunately there are so many that none of them get fleshed out well enough, meaning not only do you have no protagonist to get behind, but you also have some really lame villains that look cool but have no substance to them whatsoever. The artwork really didn’t help matters in this book as Tony Cypress’ style ended up being a little too unique for its own good. While I like to see artists being experimental, in this case it ended up being detrimental to the book’s overall quality. The art made it hard to figure out what was going on in some panels, while in others it was a case of not knowing which of the bland and undeveloped characters were talking as a few of them all looked very similar.
Cypress does deliver some good work here however, as in between the confusion there were some genuinely impressive double-page spreads and panel layouts. Also, I did like the Sin City-esque way that the book used only black, white and red as that too made for some eye-catching moments. However all the great-looking parts of this book are ultimately overshadowed by the sub-par moments, which is a shame because Cypress can definitely draw, he just needs some work here and there.
The White Suits tried to tell a story that, while not particularly groundbreaking, could have been solid and fun. But while it does have some cool moments every now and then, and at first I was interested to see where it was going to go, it ultimately crumbles under all of the book’s shortcomings. The lack of any likeable or interesting characters is fatal, and the inconsistent artwork also does the book a great deal of harm over the duration. Mix in an ending that was a little ludicrous and doesn’t take advantage of the real events of the Cold War, and you have a book that is truly underwhelming and tough to get through.
Writer: Frank J. Barbiere Artist: Toby Cypress Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $17.99 Release Date: 11/26/14 Format: TPB; Print/Digital