The latest collaboration between writer Fabien Nury and artist Brüno makes Richard Stark’s Parker look like My Little Pony. Tyler Cross is a boiled-down genre piece where the creators work their way through the all the clichés of the hard-boiled sixties crime drama while clearly having fun along the way. Luckily, so does the reader.
Tyler Cross is an emotionless killing machine in the employ of the mob. When a job gets out of hand, he’s stranded in a Mexican border town ruled ruthlessly by one family: the Praggs.
Violence and vengeance ensue when Cross becomes embroiled in the machinations of the greedy Praggs, who have set their eye on the mysterious suitcase this stranger carries into town. And did I mention the violence yet?
Hiding behind a striking cover design reminiscent of Saul Bass, the legendary title designer of posters and title sequences for movies like The Man With The Golden Arm, Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder, lies a fast and brutal tale of revenge. Talking about the protagonist, Tyler Cross, is the same as talking about the book: violently nihilistic and Richard Stark cranked up to 11.
Fabien Nury’s script is fast-paced, doesn’t worry too much about characterisation and deals with evil men meeting even more evil men (or a man, in this case). Black is black and white is white. There are no moral in-betweens, just action and reaction; the biggest of the bad wins.
Nury ups the ante on Quentin Tarantino, Ed McBain and Mickey Spillane, and piles one violent reaction upon another, with the obligatory blonde as a love interest (sort of, anyway). The comic reads like a breeze, with sparse dialogue and a filmic approach that fit the subject to a T.
Aesthetically delineated by Brüno in a clear line style, there are echoes of Michael Avon Oeming and Philippe Berthet in the artwork. Brüno’s style is even more stripped down, though, combining cartoony aspects with an über-formalised line.
The spotted blacks are mingled with selected bright colours that adapt themselves to every scene. Blend this all together and you have a good recipe for an excellent action-driven comic. Just don’t think too hard about it; these are comics from the gut.
I’m a big fan of the hard-boiled genre and had my reservations, but Tyler Cross managed to worm its way into my genre-wired brain as an excellent entry into the field. It misses the multiple levels of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, but who needs multiple levels when the ‘good’ guy is … Tyler Cross.
Tyler Cross by Brüno & Fabien Nury is published by Dargaud. It is a full-colour hardcover counting 96 pages and retails for €23,95. This review was based on the Dutch edition published by Ballon Media.