Comics: Vertigo Crime's 'Noche Roja' set on border of terror
Hero is a cynical outsider with a dirty past.
Scripps Howard News Service
Original graphic novels are hitting bookshelves like a tsunami these days, but DC's Vertigo Crime line is always welcome. It has released another winner, "Noche Roja"($19.99), that is nerve-wracking from first page to last.
Writer Simon Oliver ("The Exterminators") wisely placed his story in one of the most genuinely lawless and frightening places on Earth: northern Mexico, near the U.S. border.
Northern Mexico is one location where '30s-style crime noir stories continue to work well, because it is similar to the U.S. settings of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler: The places seem civilized but are incredibly dangerous.
As is typical of noir stories, our "hero" is a cynical outsider with a dirty past and a lousy present. Jack Cohen is an ex-cop and occasional private eye who sells security systems to McMansion owners and stays drunk to quiet his nightmares. He's hired by a Mexican social worker to investigate a series of murders of maquiladoras (female factory workers) that are even more brutal than usual. Cohen's trip south of the border is a Conradian journey into the heart of darkness — his own, and the political conspiracies, brutal class structure, powerful drug cartels and sexual perversion he finds there.
Jason Latour's art is more stylized than I like in a book where it's important to see expressions, postures and subtle movement, but it's still clear (and gritty) enough to do the job. This "Red Night" will be a chilling one for the average reader safe on the couch.
NBM is another publisher whose original graphic novels (often imported from Europe) are usually among my favorites. But "Miss Don't Touch Me Vol. 2" ($14.99), by Hubert and Kerascoet of France, was something of a disappointment.
Maybe it's because I had so much fun with the first "Miss Don't Touch Me," which introduced the courageous Blanche. Her poverty consigns her to a whorehouse in early 20th century Paris, but by dint of her determination she remains a virgin. Blanche achieves this by becoming a dominatrix who does not allow the customers to touch her, a curious sexual niche that becomes a sensation and the whorehouse's biggest draw. This farcical narrative was buttressed by a murder mystery, all of which came to a happy ending, turning the novel into a sort of 1930s-style screwball comedy.
However, the second volume is more Oliver Twist than Thin Man, in which Blanche — buffeted by economic and social forces beyond her control — also loses her heart to a gay man. She is no heroine here, merely a victim. Add the return of her selfish, alcoholic mother, and "Miss Don't Touch Me Vol. 2" is more tragedy than farce.
I hope that this is merely a second act, and that there will be a third "Miss Don't Touch Me"that will allow our heroine to prevail. As it stands now, the second volume is just depressing.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.