The plot thickens for the King of Cities.
Cities always play a vital role in Private Detective stories; a silent character always present, testing the protagonist, challenging him, taking the measure of his strength. The city sets the tone and moves along the plot with a surprise around every corner and the constant threat of overwhelming the hero with its cold corrupt heart. Telling a detective story with the main character being a super powered human that can literally talk to cities isnít that big of an intuitive leap. But a brilliant leap none the less. The silent character of San Francisco is quite a bit less silent than normal in this super-hero / hard boiled detective story. She feeds Jack information, follows his commands (sometimes) and appears to hold a grudge against him for something that happened in the past. Normally in the structure of a detective novel the past sin involves a person, so Hawksmoor just modifies the concept a bit.
The opening page hints at what this past sin could be but itís just a tease at the moment. To continue with the private eye thread; weíre at the mid-point of the story so some of the seemingly random plot points start adding up to a narrative whole. Jack has bedded the gal; a Stormwatch washout with a guilty past. Sheís involved more deeply in whatís going on but now that Jack has hit that she has fallen off his suspicion radar. If there is one thing Iíve learned from detective stories is that the dame gets 10 times more dangerous after you sleep with her. She was having an affair (supposedly) with Ben, the man whose murder Jack is investigating. Jack also discovers why he couldnít talk to the house that Ben was murdered in. This sequence is done with a clever twist; all along Jack has narrated the story (classic private eye trope at work). As Jack enters Benís house his narration gets scrambled. The page ends with a blank caption box and silence. What follows next is two pages of silence till Jack finds what has been dampening his powers; a metal square no bigger than his hand, and itís been sealed inside the house for several years. As soon as he crushes it his narration kicks in again. Itís a little touch but so often itís the little touches that really make a story work. Jack follows his clues to a construction site in Oakland and promptly gets a chest full of buckshot. This doesnít kill him and the shooter says he knows as much because ďÖ weíre the ones who made you.Ē More of Jackís past coming back up on him. Jack chases the shooter and itís revealed that he has powers similar to Hawksmoor. The plot threads tighten even more as the mysterious shooter activates the giant assault suit Jack fought in the first issue. What at first seemed like an interesting intro to the whole story was actually an important plot point. The issue ends with a powerless Hawksmoor about to be squished by a 100 foot battle suit.
I love the hell out of this story. There isnít an inch of wasted space anywhere to be found in the structure, plot or dialogue. As some mysteries begin to be answered more rear their ugly heads, and donít forget about the original ones still hanging out there. I thought the Secret History of the Authority subtitle was just a way of connecting to Jackís super team and the collection of stories surrounding Jenny Sparks, the original team leader. Part of this story is Jack uncovering his actual secret history!
Fiona Staples art is sexy, moody and filled with menace. She nails the tension of a flirtatious scene between Jack and the dame just as flawlessly as she lays out the fight sequence between Jack and the gunman. A close up of a pair of lips is just as effective as a wide shot of the giant battle suit ripping apart the Golden Gate bridge. And special mention to letterer Rob Leigh for the above mentioned sequence.
Final Word: If you havenít started on this limited series now is an awkward time to do so being halfway through it but do this. Go to your comic store and get issues # 1 and #2 and this one too. If you have any desire for an intelligent, brilliantly crafted, immensely well done comic youíll be getting just what you want.
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