If imitation truly is the highest form of flattery, Overlook #1 is schmoozing every good-looking noir comic book writer in the bar, fondling Frank Miller's thigh while trying to get Ed Brubaker's digits. Fresh off the well received Johnny Monster mini-series (also released by Shadowline), new writer Joshua Williamson takes a trip into the seedy world of mafia bosses and hitmen-for-hire--but does the book do enough to distance itself from the crowd?
Overlook follows Mickey “The Nickel” Nicholson, a punch-drunk loser steadily cruising down the road of self-destruction. Instead of beating himself up over his mistakes, he lets other people do it. For money. While he laughs. This nihilistic edge brings him to the attention of the shady Mr. Corletti who has an offer that only a man with nothing to lose would take up--to travel to the dead end town of Overlook and kill Corletti's errant wife. In return, Mickey gets any target of his choosing taken out. And, after Mickey's past is divulged, it's clear that he'd probably have more than a few names on his the list.
Williamson handles the script pretty well. The book plays heavily on your standard noir archetypes, but the dialogue never strays too close to cliché. Mickey is the star of the book, and comes off convincingly as a worn down but funny character. The plot's a simple one, but it's well tied up and gives the impression that this three-parter will end with a gratifying conclusion (though I think I see a twist coming and I'm pretty sure I can guess what it is).
The really worrying thing about Overlook is how Aragon's art gets progressively worse as the issue goes on. It holds up really well for about the first third, even if the Sin City inspirations are pinned to its chest. The tone of the art matches the story, Nicholson's pummeled face is rendered well enough to make you wince, and the use of dense inking makes the bar and alleyway outside truly come alive. The further you get in though the sparsity of the inks just comes off as lazy, and some of the faces have a kind of Etch-A-Sketch feel to them. It's a shame, and I hope enough time's left for Aragon to bring his A game to the entirety of the remaining issues.
For those missing Criminal while Brubaker goes Incognito, or to those that love Fraction and Dwyer's Last of the Independents (and Amen to that) you'll find something to like here. When all's said and done this is a pretty intriguing first issue that'll have me picking up #2. While a set-up is only as good as its pay off, watching “The Nickel” get his face pulped while flashing that splintered, shit-eating grin should easily provide enough entertainment for another two issues.
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