Monday, August 16, 2010

Kane: Greetings from New Eden

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Kane: Greetings from New Eden (Image, 2004)

Paul Grist's police procedural Kane has been one of those books that I've told myself repeatedly to sample, but I never got around to trying it until this summer. The good folk at the suburban Titan Games & Comics marked a box of trades and graphic novels down to 75% off at one of their locations a couple of months ago, and so I stopped in and found this.

Kane is a loner detective in a big town called New Eden. Wikipedia tells me nothing that I couldn't glean from the issues here, that Kane has rejoined the force after a lengthy suspension and some unpleasantness with his former partner. He's a reckless, incredibly effective cop whom nobody with a badge wants to trust anymore. Conceptually, there's little of note here.

Honestly, Grist has done much, much better work since these chapters, which I believe were originally published in the late 1990s. I quite like his series Jack Staff, which is an homage to classic British adventure comics, and Kane features many of the same storytelling quirks, such as starting a new scene by way of a dramatic, portrait-and-caption introduction to the characters within it. Something about that bag of tricks just doesn't work as well for me here. Grist made the same mistake that many newly-published writer/artists stumble in their early work (guilty as charged, myself) and assumes that the reader can follow similarly-drawn characters into and out of scenes and flashbacks without using captions to guide the flow.

There are also far too many characters, honestly, for something with such a similar-looking cast presented in monochrome. Somebody like Gene Ha could certainly manage a Hill Street Blues-sized cast of cops in his Alan Moore collaboration Top 10, but working in color with radically different character designs. Here, with all the males looking almost exactly the same and the lone character with a distinctive wardrobe the only female, I found it unpleasantly difficult to follow. Four issues were reprinted in this book, and I genuinely couldn't tell you what happens in the second and the third, because I couldn't tell the difference between the mayor, the detectives or the guy who was sometimes wearing a bunny suit. Sadly, not recommended.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad it's not just me who gets frustrated by comics in which characters just all seem to look too alike for me to make sense of things!

Anonymous said...

You are getting sad Grant.I'm beginning to think you should just stick to resturant reviews. Kane is one of my all time top five comics just for the one reason you mentioned, the fact that Grist tells a story visually and doesn't add in a lot of captions.His light and shadow work on the book is superb and his story telling gets better with every volume. Volume 3 Histories, the back story of Oscar Darke, is poignant and horrific at the same time. Vol. 4 The Thirty Ninth, the name of the Precinct where Kane works, is a retelling of some of the stories from the first volume through another characters eyes and is Grist's best writing to date.
As for your criticisims saying that you couldn't follow the story because everyone looked alike is like saying you can't follow a Judge Dredd story becase all the cops are wearing helmets.
As for your confusion and critique over Grist's cinimatic use of cuts and flashbacks. The fact that I have to do a little work and GASP actually think about what is going on in the story instead of being spoon fed explanations is what I enjoy most about the series.
Kane is a series I have reread more than any other series of comics and each time I find something new and enjoyable.
Grant I am a faithful follower of your website and the 2nd biggest fan of 2000AD in the US. I think you and other readers should reconsider and give Kane another try when you are in the mood to enjoy a comic for the sake of a story told with compelling black and white artwork and not captions.