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Kane: Greetings From New Eden

Quite some time ago I reviewed Paul Grist’s Jack Staff, which I found that I liked despite several problems with his storytelling abilities. Since others have indeed found Grist to be read-worthy, Image Comics has been importing and reprinting some of Grist’s earlier work, mostly of his criminal noir comic Kane, for quite some time now. I was in a noir-ey (noir-ish?) mood and managed to pick myself up a copy of the first volume. And I’m rather surprised that this earlier work by Grist is somewhat better than his work on Jack Staff.

Detective Kane has just come back to the New Eden police force after a leave of absence. Kane shot and killed his own partner, and the circumstances of that shooting lead to a not so welcoming “Welcome Back” for Kane. On his first day, his fellow officers hand him a box. Contained within are two bullets, each engraved with “KANE.” A simple but effective message.

The story follows Kane as he adjusts to being back on the force, of being teamed with a new partner, and the reader follows Kane as he slowly tries to deal with having to kill his own partner. As we watch Kane go from a hostage crisis, to a serial bomber, to surveillance work, we also watch him as he deals with the trauma, and Grist impresses in the way he presents the story of the shooting. The reader does not know the details of the incident, but Grist drops story hints throughout the first volume, juxtaposing them against the current situations Kane finds himself in. It’s not always subtle (one scene goes from Kane drawing on his partner and then a present day assailant), but it is well done in the respect that adds depth to a mostly straightforward crime/cop genre story.

The characterization isn’t greatly in-depth, but Grist seems more about giving the reader the nuance of the character, rather than building a great amount of background too quickly. It doesn’t detract from the way the reader views the characters; it just makes it harder to track them. No one falls into a tight category: the many supporting characters are all slowly introduced to the reader, and small portions of their respective pasts and personalities crop up, appearing in odd spots in-between the story and cases. Captain Dexter is oddly layered and on his way to becoming a Commissioner Gordon-like paternal figure in the book, while maintaining a level of detachment from the rest of the characters. He doesn’t seem to care about any of them too much, but more about running his station. Kate Felix, Kane’s new partner, seems able to avoid almost every cliché about “the woman cop” character, Grist presenting her as simply a cop who prefers to bend the rules when it suits her.

Which brings up a fine point: almost no one in this comic is a shining beacon of law-abiding-ness that one would think to find in a crime drama involving cops. Everyone from the cops that threaten and endanger Kane to Kane himself, no one seems as interested in upholding the law as in following their respective agendas. It may be Grist demonstrating the level of corruption that New Eden has attained, making even the good cops seem bad and corrupt but it adds something to the text in the way it keeps the characters from becoming pat. The characters’ moral flexibilities show them as more realistic and showing that their environment affects them.

A huge problem that Jack Staff had is much less of a problem in this comic: Grist’s tendency to throw the reader into a flashback scene without any warning remains a problem in Kane, but not to any large extent. While some scenes will quickly shift from the present day Kane to a memory of his past (with only the differing hairstyles to tell the two apart), the running subplot of Kane killing his partner actually strings these scenes together into a much better narrative than Jack Staff could manage. Instead of being treated to meandering scenes that make little sense by themselves, we see the progression of Kane’s trip down memory lane, as well as discovering more about the circumstances of his partner’s death.

The artwork also fares better here as black and white. Jack Staff was a comic I wanted to see in color (which later came out in color, I discovered) because the heavy inks did nothing to help a superhero story. In Kane, the crime driven storyline and haunting visuals are far better served by Grist’s excellent work in black and white, as well as his use of negative space. Some of the splash pages of Kane or the double page spreads are beautifully rendered and convey a high level of atmosphere to the comic. Grist is at home with black and white, and it shows far better here than it did with Britain’s Greatest Superhero.

It’s a good read with good art, and any fan of crime drama comics should be adding this to his or her collection. You get the first trade from Image for only $11.95, collecting the first four issues and the short vignette “Shooting Gallery” in one volume. Better than Jack Staff, as it isn’t trapped too firmly in the mold of superhero category, and seeks to avoid the crime drama mold at any cost. Go forth and buy if it should be right to do so.

Kane: Greetings from New Eden


Robert Sparling

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