Friday, April 09, 2010

Turf #1

As Rich Johnston tells it, Turf is the hottest comic in the U.K., because writer Jonathan Ross is a huge celebrity there, where he hosts a popular TV talk show. Ross is virtually unknown in the U.S., though, so from an American perspective this is just another high-concept Image miniseries with art from a guy who's done some mainstream comics (Tommy Lee Edwards). Still, between Johnston's hyperbole and the preview pages posted online, my interest was piqued, even though these mash-up stories (gangsters versus vampires versus aliens! During Prohibition!) are more than a little played out.

Ross does a good job with his hybrid premise, though, not merely coasting on the self-conscious cool factor of all these genre mainstays butting heads. The first issue is mainly about the vampires versus the gangsters, with the aliens lurking in the background as players about to enter the fray. Ross creates a smart heroine in an ambitious newspaper reporter, and he makes both his vampires and his gangsters genuinely nasty and menacing, not the pop-culture-savvy wits who still dominate a lot of these kinds of comics. As I mentioned in my post on American Vampire, the 1920s is one of my favorite settings, and Ross has that atmosphere down solid. This first issue is mostly setup, but it crafts a thorough and intriguing world, and it made me curious to see where things go from here (of course, that execution, and the way it involves the waiting aliens, will really be the test of whether the series turns out to be any good).

Ross' biggest shortcoming is a common one for first-time comics writers from other media: He's way too wordy. A lot of Edwards' exciting, evocative art is covered by massive caption boxes and speech balloons, and there is definitely an overabundance of exposition. Ross rarely steps back and lets the art tell the story, which is too bad since he's working with a very talented artist. His dialogue is good, and the plotting is solid, but all those words could have used about twice as much space to spread out. Hopefully Ross will iron out these kinks over the course of the remaining four issues, and at this point, I'm on board to see if he does.

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