Friday, 26 March 2010


Filthy Rich comes complete with blurbs from George Pelecanos and Meagan Abbott, and it doesn't get much more noirish than that--impressive enough that my wife actually gave me this copy for my birthday! And she does not do comic books. Brian Azzarello has shown in 100 Bullets that he's absorbed a full menu of late 50s and early 60s noir, and artist Victor Santos' art, which seems heavily influenced by Frank Miller as much as 50s black and white films and maybe Bernie Krigstein, suits the story very well.

There is a fine line between hommage and derivation, and the graphic novel format often winds up drawing heavily on both; in writing terms they are short stories, while in story format they are presented more like novels--the same sort of boundaries you might place on film, but even moreso without the giant screen and dark cinema to encompass the viewer. So although the outlines of the story are familiar, what makes it work so well is Azarello's combining of angles: the failed athlete turned car salesman thrown into the nightlife milieu is not only redolent of noir, it carries the undercurrents of the era, the sort of thing you get in Philip K Dick's mainstream novels, in everything from Death of A Salesman to Glengarry Glen Ross, the sort of thing that kept Gold Medal books in business fo so long. Junk Junkin, the former star football player who was accused of shaving points in college and then saw his pro career disappear to injury before it even started, is a desperate, empty man, with a half-track brain and a one-track mind--the perfect noir hero.

If anything, the story is even more desperate than Junkin himself, and that's where Romero's art cranks up the pace to a frenzied level. It resolves itself the way noir ought to, the way it has to, the only way it possibly can, in its real underbelly of a world. Filthy Rich is filthy, and it's rich noir, and what more can you ask for?

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