Stunning artwork and a script that keeps you guessing anchor Image’s latest high-profile creative coup, in Niles and Harris’ occult investigation of Al Capone’s Chicago.
There are very few comic book artists today who can manipulate the page with the same sense of style and clarity as Tony Harris. One of the best storytelling artists working today, Harris’ newest venture from Image Comics pairs him with ever-prolific co-creator Steve Niles for a pulp-inspired romp through Prohibition-era Chicago, in Chin Music.
Image Comics’ latest creative coup follows on the heels of recent critically acclaimed successes Fatale, Saga, and Jupiter’s Legacy and continues a trend of top-notch talent migrating to Image’s creator-friendly stable for an atmospheric spin on the typical supernatural crime thriller. Much of the success of this book can be credited to Harris’ innovative page designs and ability to tailor his artistic style to the needs of the story – a quality of his work that collaborator Niles takes full advantage of, with whole sequences relying solely on Harris’ impeccable visual storytelling.
The plot itself is relatively familiar, though it does contain a few twists and one hell of a cliffhanger on the final page. Niles’ script sets up the main players and events of the story in snapshots, moving back and forth through time to provide tantalizing hints about his protagonist’s long history and familiarity with the occult. This first chapter reads a bit like a zero issue, in that it makes a lot of assumptions regarding the audience’s knowledge of his protagonist Shaw, who has yet to be officially named in the book. In lesser hands, this would be the death knell of most first issues yet thanks to an original structure feeding into the aforementioned shocking cliffhanger and Harris’ keen eye for storytelling, it works rather well in Chin Music #1.
Harris’ artwork is the obvious centerpiece of this series, though. Oozing atmosphere thanks to a spot on use of textured black space and his characteristic stylized panel borders, Chin Music is a veritable feast for the eyes. Truth be told, at first glance, it seems as if his unique page layouts shouldn’t work – but they do. Oh boy, they certainly do…
What sets Harris art apart from many of his contemporaries is his ability to draw the eye around the page with such fluid ease. Very few artists working today have or understand this intrinsic quality of the graphic narrative. Igor Kordey’s work on Smoke and Dave Gibbons’ work on, well, pretty much anything he touches, are two rare exceptions that perhaps prove the rule. The end result is a wicked pace, tons of atmosphere that only serves to anchor the book’s setting, and pages upon pages you won’t be able to resist returning to over and over again.
Featuring an all-too appropriately brief cameo by Al Capone, a script engineered to keep you guessing, and Harris’ lush, textured illustrations, Chin Music is, without a doubt, one of the must-read books of the year.
Steve Niles (W), Tony Harris (A), • Image Comics, $2.99, March 8th, 2013.