Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bad Break by Philippe Riche

This has been a great year of Humanoids, month after month of releasing high quality comics from Europe, and Bad Break continues that string.

Humanoids first released Alliance of the Curious and the characters we met there are the exact same characters we see in Bad Break. Bad Break is a prequel to Alliance and here, we see their beginnings. Bad Break also continues Riche's fascination with Neo-Noir and Crime genres. Being able to work within the genres and expand them to places not seen regularly. Bad Break starts with one of our protagonists, somewhat bandaged and in a mission to get to certain place. It's really a very striking introduction to the character and comic. We follow him for a while until he slowly meets up with our other two protagonists and from there our story goes into full gear. Bad Break is a story that's high in black humor, convolution (not a bad thing) and silence; Bad Break is a comic that loves its silence. 
The characters in Bad Break mostly talk through actions and expressions and reactions to situations presented to them. It's a tricky thing to pull off, especially if you're working within the comic medium. You have to be a skilled artist to pull off the nuances of human expression and behavior. Luckily for us, Riche is a highly skilled artist.

Riche's linework is bold, thin and straight to the point. He draws what is needed to move the story or to add dimensions to his characters. His chiaroscuro black and whites with gray overtones add to the story's unrelenting pace. It also gives an atmosphere of paranoia.

Not only is Riche a skilled artist, but he has a strong grasp of the inner-working of Neo-Noir. There's that word again. For those who don't know, Neo-Noir takes a unique spin on Noir. Neo-Noir takes in account modern technology and it's social ramifications while using things like memory lapses, somewhat convoluted narratives, identity crisis, and a distance between the view or reader with their protagonists. Instead of having the viewer or reader build a relationship, like you would in most Noir works, Neo-Noir keeps a distance that makes that relationship unattainable. You realize you're watching or reading a story by the way Neo-Noir utilizes unconventional camera angles and a schizophrenic plot progression. That's what Riche does with Bad Break.  He takes the themes, tropes and motifs that Neo-Noir utilizes and turns them on their head and almost deconstructs them.

Sadly, that inspection is sometimes stifled by the way he does his page and panel layouts. There's a stiffness in them that breaks the flow of the narrative when things start to pick up. Just when you get into the rhythm or beat of the story, Riche does a weird panel or page layout and it breaks that flow; you get jolted out of the story. Good thing these stifles are few and far apart and they don't ruin the overall reading experience.

Riche does a lot interesting character and narrative work in Bad Break. He has a unique vision and voice that we don't see much of with other creators working in the genre. This is also a great introduction to Riche's work and to his characters that we will hopefully see more of in the future. If you're a fan of Noir, Neo-Noir, Crime or anything the like, do yourself a favor and buy Riche's Bad Break and while you're at it, buy Alliance of the Curious too.

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