I was really impressed recently with You Have Killed Me, a new graphic novel from Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones. This one has it all, and it starts with the first-rate design by Oni Press. The cover is awesome (please, feel free to judge this one by the cover), but it’s the story that really sings -- and for fans of the genre in particular, it is an absolute killer.
Set in 1939, the plot centers around P.I. Mercer and two women -- one who has hired him, and one who is missing. Mercer has a long, complicated involvement with the missing woman and her family, so this one is personal. All too fast, his questions find him with more clues than he can believe. There is the upcoming marriage to the wrong guy, the gambling habit that has drawn the attention of the powerful bad guy, and the attraction for the black trumpet player who had to know he had no real shot with the rich white dame (but tried anyway). Mercer gets beat to hell and back -- the story actually opens with him getting shot, and then flashes back -- and the twists and turns are perfection. From cops who push him around, to a murder at the racetrack, to revelations hidden behind wide, innocent-looking eyes, "classic" does not even begin to describe this book. And don’t think you have it figured out, because trust me, you don’t.
Special things of note: the black-and-white drawings are crisp and clean, and Jones is to be commended in particular for how much emotion she conveys on these faces. The dialog is snappy (it’s 1939; of course it’s snappy!), the slang right out of every good late-night movie you’ve ever seen, and the use of text boxes to carry Mercer’s thoughts forward -- even as dialogue bubbles surround him -- effectively keeps everything straight for the reader. A lot of work went into making this a first-class reading experience, and it shows. True to its nature, bold in its design, and classic in each and every word and picture You Have Killed Me is the introduction to noir that any reader will embrace. The coolest kids in class will be reading this one, trust me. And when you’re done with it, please watch Key Largo -- proof that noir doesn’t have to exist in a big city to be flat-out awesome. (High-school age only on this one -- it’s written for adults, and would best suit the fifteen-and-up crowd.)
Cross posted from my April column at Bookslut.
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