Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Filthy Rich – A Review

Filthy Rich – An Original Graphic Novel

Publisher Vertigo Crime

Writer Brian Azzarello

Artist Victor Santos

Release Date August 19, 2009

Retail Price $19.99

I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy of Filthy Rich which is the inaugural book in Vertigo’s new and ambitious Crime Novel line. For the record I love this idea and it is the next step in the evolution of taking American comics to the realm of true graphic novels as opposed to trades which collect the chapters of a story or a just collect a block of issues from a series. We have seen graphic novels before, but to my knowledge no publisher has announced an actual schedule of graphic novels. Vertigo Crime has 7 more crime novels advertised in the back of this advance copy. Also this is not an anthology, it is one story. Just like most prose books it has a beginning, middle and an end. It will be released as a hardcover for $20 and I assume down the road as a soft cover version like the one I read. This was a 6” x 9” soft cover and was a good size and eminently readable.

I think this is an idea whose time has come and using Crime and the noir genre as a launching point makes sense as comics are doing noir better then any other medium right now. Movies are not going to venture heavily into that area and to be a true child of film noir it needs pictures as well as words. Not only can this be released to direct market comic stores, but it can go out into the regular book store outlets at the same time. This particular book had no double page spreads or crazy layouts, so I see no reason this could not be reformatted for e-books readers and work with the kindles of the world. Finally this is a shooting script with the storyboards completed. All a movie director needs to do is cast it and then tweak it here and there so he can say how he improved it and you can make this into a movie in no time at all.

This is a long preamble before I get to the review, but I think the idea and the willingness to try this line shows a lot of guts from Vertigo. Also I would love to see this be the beginning of something new and exciting, where we have science fiction graphic novels, westerns, war stories and all the rest. It could be the beginning of the golden age of comic novels and coming at a time when selling stories is in the midst of a digital revolution as well as a format revolution. I mean let’s face it you are getting almost 200 pages of black and white art and story for $20, versus what would cost at least $30 if it was serialized and spread over 9 or 10 issues.

The actual novel itself is a good one. It starts with our “hero” Rich “Junk” Junkin f**king the brains out of some obvious rich broad that he was suppose to be selling a car too. Junk is a football star whose glory days never happened as he had a severe knee injury before he ever played a down in the NFL. There was allegations that Junk had been involved in shaving points in college and he is still an unsavory character to say the least. In fact as we go through this story no one is exactly a sweetheart, Junk is just our central character.

The owner of the car dealership has a rich and spoiled little girl who is constantly getting in trouble and Junk is not even close to pulling his weight at the car dealership so the owner hires Junk to watch his daughter. She is a seductress and extremely hot little number who knows how to punch every button a man has. Junk also is a ladies man and he knows how to push the same buttons on her.

The title comes from the fact that Junk is seeing how the other half lives and what it means like to be filthy rich. I’m not going to breakdown the entire story, but needless to say Junk gets himself into a lot of trouble, ends up killing some people, ends up doing the girl he is guarding, screwing up the relationship that he had and ending up worse off then where he started. The ending is almost like real life in the rich manipulate things to their advantage and let the chips fall where they may. This is not to excuse Junk because his actions got him better then he deserved, but since no one is a nice person you are not that concerned about it.

The story itself was a well done one. Books like this need to hit me on a visceral level and this one delivered. You can see yourself falling into the trap that Junk had created for himself, but you also know given half a chance you might thrown everything away for a beautiful woman and hope she runs away with you in the end.

The one area that I felt the book did not do as well as the opening salvo in a new line should was the artwork. Now Victor Santos is a good artist and he is a solid professional with the ability to layout a page and tells a good story, but his art is a little blocky and a little simplistic at times. As I read the book I started to not notice the art as much as I was flying through the story and when certain panels needed to make a dramatic statement they delivered, but overall Santos work was a little too ordinary, especially for the first graphic novel under this banner. I think part of my problem is that I identify Azzarello with Eduardo Rizzo too much and Rizzo is one of the best and Santos is good, but not one of the best. I feel bad criticizing Santos, because his art did convey the story and did not take away from my enjoyment of the book, but I wanted more out of the artwork.

Bottom Line – Filthy Rich hits the raw and almost grimy down and dirty type of level that you like to see in a crime noir book and make this book worth your money. I feel a little dirter after reading it, but let's give it an "A"

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