The Details are in "The Devil's Concubine"

"The Devil's Concubine" from IDW Publishing

So. A funny little story:

New York City is an amazing place. You never know who you'll meet.

The night before this past MoCCA Fest (@MoCCAnyc) I was catching the end of an event at Brooklyn's excellent comics shop Bergen Street Comics (@BergenStComics) and I meet a small group of Danish comics creators and one Danish comics journalist walking out of the store. We all walked together to the after-party at which we all got better acquainted: whose work do we like best, the differences between the Danish and American comics industries, etc. Wonderful time. Among these rare guests to NYC was the creator of the soon-to-be released in the US "The Devil's Concubine", Palle Schmidt (@Palle_Schmidt). This review is about a product of Denmark and was originally published there as "Blodets Konkubine". As is its charming creator Palle Schmidt. I was permitted to flip through pages and see a preview of "Concubine" and some other work of his. Never would have noticed the book otherwise. IDW gave it no publicity or advertising that I saw.

I love NYC exactly for these random circumstances.

You may have missed this slim graphic novella when it arrived in American comics stores from IDW Publishing about a month ago. Here I am to make sure you know about it. 'Cool' would be a good way to start out describing the fun, well-drawn crime comic that is "The Devil's Concubine". But I don't go for the easy solution. No sir. I can do better:

"The Devil's Concubine" is like a classic Hollywood crime movie, splintered into delicious chaos by New Wave cinema and Quentin Tarantino, and committed to paper in sequential art with shades of Frank Miller and Chester Gould.

And it's cool.

Some of it feels very standard. Set-ups. Showdowns. Double-crosses. Some of it is tongue-in-cheek and silly. Some of it is tough-as-nails. But what I enjoyed most was the sharp storytelling:


That's an amazing piece of sequential art. Time is splintered down to those slow moments of sudden recognition and just the right details shine through to tell the story. We don't see the moment our hitman main character Jean-Luc realizes he and his partner have been duped, but we do see what he sees the way he sees it. Much more powerful.

This page sets off quite a sweet and hilarious sequence concluding in our main characters being discovered, guns already drawn, in a metal safe. Actually, this page is where the book took off for me. Suddenly the situation gets dire and everything gets hyper-realistic.

"The Devil's Concubine" is essentially the story of two freelance hitmen Jean-Luc and Linda (or hitman and hitWOMAN I suppose) who've accepted a simple job to rip-off a crime lord named Latour but the job slowly reveals itself to be far from simple. Their anonymous employer turns out to have unusual motives. The case they steal turns out to be a mysterious object called the Devil's Concubine. (Or is it?) And their steps are being patiently followed by another dark figure only known as The Haitian. Nearly every classic crime/gangster cliche gets run through before the story ends in a surprising tragedy for the two weary criminals.

Characterization is, however, spread thin in the comic's 84 pages. We don't get a lot of time to get to know our characters. But what's there is strong. This is one of the few personal moments our characters show us:
"You were in the French Foreign Legion, right?"
"Yeah."
"So, how was it?"
"It sounded better in the ad." [he said while lighting a cigarette]

"When I was a little girl, I wanted to become a doctor..."
"We were very poor. We lived in the Tsukrami swamps. You know them? In Japan?"
"Anyway, my father had refused to sell bread to the Yakuza. One night they came. There was a terrible storm."
"I hid in the great big cauldron on the fireplace. The Yakuza killed everyone, even the dog. But they never found me..."
"Great story. All lies." [he said, holding his cigarette]
"Yeah, so?" [she said, eyes only half-open]
~ pp. 41-42
Feels like Tarantino but a bit classier to me.

There's another page in this little Hitchockian graphic tale that is so good, so original, and so fun I can't believe it. You'll have to see that for yourself: "CLAC K-CLICK CLAC SNAP CLAC" Really loved it.

The written sound-effects are actually one of the smarter elements of "Devil's Concubine". A pretty rare compliment as they are so often over-looked and only some very few people make visually beautiful ones, but far fewer know how to use them to tell the story by themselves.

The design-work in general is quite strong actually. Jean-Luc is huge and imposing in his trench-coats (much like Marv from Miller's "Sin City") despite being a bit of a softy. Linda is small and feminine despite being abrasive, stubborn, and perhaps a little crazy. Latour is grungy and lithe despite being nervous and impulsive. The opposing visuals and personalities make for interesting contrasts both between characters and within them.

THE LONG AND SHORTBOX OF IT?
If you want a little action mixed with a little humor in a well-constructed package, you should order yourself a copy of "The Devil's Concubine". It's a unique balance of smart and fun you don't come across very often.

You can learn more about the graphic novella and where you can buy it at its own devoted website: DevilsConcubine.com or at IDW's site or the comicsmith Palle Schmidt's website. Palle is also on Twitter @Palle_Schmidt.

~ @JonGorga

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