Matt Kindt delivers one of the best stories of the year with his new OGN. It’s funny, exciting, and will leave you questioning your very morality.
“If you look at enough guilty eyes, the innocent ones will become obvious.”
Matt Kindt’s new OGN from First Second Publishing, Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes, is bookended by a man stealing a wheelbarrow full of dirt from different construction sites. What starts as a mound of dirt, slowly becomes a hill as the years pass.
He is just one of the many oddball criminals Kindt writes and draws into this tale. But what are criminals without someone to pursue them? Detective Gould is a modern day Sherlock Holmes, with a flawless record, even when dealing with the strangest of strange crimes.
A series of seemingly unrelated crimes converge to tell the story of what is right vs. what is wrong in one of Kindt’s best works to date. “Someone once said that the mark of a genius is the ability to maintain two conflicting viewpoints simultaneously.”
Fortunately for the readers, the crimes in this story aren’t as black and white as right or wrong, and neither are the characters. “But there aren’t two opposing viewpoints. There are a thousand.” Each new criminal brings with them their own unique moral codes.
The individual stories focus on the criminals, placing Detective Gould as the antagonist for a majority of the pages. The book has a revolutionary air, all the rebellion of a pissed-off teenager but with none of the immaturity. Instead of blindly blaming police or lawmakers as a whole, Kindt uses his Moriarty character to object to the inelasticity of the laws.
It’s a fascinating study of one’s own moral fiber to consider the crimes perpetrated in the story, many of which can be arguably classified as “victimless crimes,” and decide where one stands on the criminals’ guilt.
Kindt takes the old question of stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family and expands that scenario to ultimately grayer and grayer areas of moral rightness.
Is it possible to steal a painting that was never officially sold but taken from location to location by people who never had any connection to the creator, decades after his death?
But if it’s okay to take that first painting, what comes after that? Just as the dirty thief’s mound became a hill, it is also argued in the book that the first crime, no matter how innocent or victimless, changes us. It widens our views of right and wrong to the point where the two can be indistinguishable.
And ultimately it isn’t even the police, laws, or inelasticity of those laws that Kindt comes down on. It is the fascination with the post-crime process at the expense of preventing the crime in the first place.
The arguments are all well-reasoned, and maybe more importantly, compelling. But the thoughtful moral questions that the book asks shouldn’t take away from what this book is on the surface: FUN.
The crimes range from laugh-out-loud funny to nerve-wracking, sometimes at the same time. And the criminals themselves could seemingly be pulled from even the best of the Coen brothers’ movies. It would be cliché to say that the crimes may be related; they are related, it’s as simple as that. And once you start to realize just how they are all related, the book plays out as a meticulously plotted caper in the vein of an Ocean’s Eleven.
Kindt’s art, likewise, finds that balance between contemplative and exciting. Kindt doesn’t sweat the details as he realizes it isn’t about drawing the number of wrinkles on the face that tells the story, but the weariness of the eyes. His art is perfect for the story he’s telling here. It’s absolutely beautiful when paired with the seemingly water painted colors.
So, the art is gorgeous, the writing is thoughtful and funny, and the ending is ambiguous enough to leave you questioning your own moral compass. What’s not to love about this book?
This is a graphic novel that has come in as swiftly and silently as the best crooks it portrays, so far eluding the attention of the masses. Well, I’m here as Detective Gould, sounding the alarm on this book. Because this is a comic that must be read. Catch it before it’s gone.
Matt Kindt (W & A) • First Second Publishing, $26.99, May 7, 2013