Monday, June 13, 2005

The Black Diamond

I picked up an advance copy of The Black Diamond: On Ramp at the Isotope last week (it's released everywhere else on this coming Wednesday), which features a full issue's worth of teaser story to Larry Young's upcoming six-issue miniseries with artist Join Proctor, as well as a six-page preview of the Smoke And Guns OGN that will destroy us all.

Having read a few of Larry Young's books in the last couple years, I've come to expect two things from him.

First, an idea that delicately balances crazy imagination (I would have never thought of that!) with a broadly appealing, everybody-loves-a-good-action-flick angle (How come I didn't think of that?). The Black Diamond is full of car chase scenes and explosions and big guns - well, of course it is. But guess what? It all happens on an eight-lane transcontinental highway built 150 feet in the air and designated specifically for the kind of lawless apeshit that decent Americans don't want on their drive to work.

The other thing I expect from Young is a little meta-commentary, a little something that rises above the story and speaks directly to the reader. We get that here, too, in an interesting discussion of stories themselves. How many stories are there? I seem to remember, a long time ago, that some jerk told me there were only forty-two stories or something like that, though I never found out what those forty-two were.

It's a good thing I saved my time, because Young boils it down quite a bit more: there's "Just trying to get home" and there's "Stranger comes to town," and everything else is a variation on the theme.

See, that was compelling enough, because it got me thinking about a lot of stories and whether they fit into either category, but then Young pulls it down to just one. It's a thoughtful point that left me thinking, but without weighing the story down; no, the point is made while one character is loading a shotgun, and a scant four pages later we're treated to some really excellent explodo.

Which brings me to the artwork. This is the first thing I've seen by Jon Proctor, and the first color book from AiT/Planet Lar, and if this is any indication I hope I'll see plenty more of both.

Proctor's pencils are interesting by themselves - his layouts are manic, explosive affairs, instantly developing the frantic world of the story - but the real shining star here is the coloring. The palettes he uses here are really stunning, and they're richly reproduced; ripe, fat shades. Each page is like a meal.

On top of this, the Smoke And Guns preview is unbelievably gorgeous, and writer Kirsten Baldock has included a one-page "journal entry" detailing a typical night as a cigarette girl; this is really cool, because in the comic we'll be seeing an exaggerated, mob-scene version of the cigarette girl lifestyle, and it's fun to read that with the context of what work is actually like for these fine ladies.

Jesus, there's more here, and there's plenty more to say about Smoke And Guns, but I'm starving to death and I've got to do some more work on my upcoming move into a new home with Molly.

You'll do fine finding a copy of this to read for yourself, anyway. Because AiT/Planet Lar is shipping a bunch of extra copies to every retailer who ordered it. For free. Seriously. I read it here. Now that's pimping out your comics.

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