Thursday, August 21, 2014

Noir Comic Week: 99 Days

Here we are, Day 4 of Super Serious Graphic Novel Week! Today we're reviewing 99 Days by Matteo Casali and Kristian Donaldson!

Detective Antoine Davis is tasked with solving a string of brutal murders by a machete-wielding maniac. As L.A. tears itself apart with gang violence, Antoine is reminded more and more of the awful time he spent as a refugee in Rwanda. He's tried to put the past behind, but will this finally be the case that breaks him?

It's interesting; I hate ticking clocks and timed levels in videogames, but I love them in comics. And 99 Days manages to work it perfectly. In between solving the murder cases, the book flashes back to Antoine’s past, and the horrible things he did during those 100 days in Rwanda. The flashbacks jump out of order between his Rwanda days while time moves forward in the present. This technique really shows how he's slowly unraveling as time ticks closer and closer to that last day. It's fantastic.

This is a great noir in every way. Great narrative, great art, mystery that keeps you guessing, AND a diverse cast! The main character is not just black, he's Rwandan. He has a point of view we rarely ever see in comics, and it works so well in noir because they're using a character who is trying to work through trauma, but slowly falling apart. Is he going to revert back to his old ways – and these were bad old ways – or can he pull himself back from the brink of darkness? He was a child soldier forced to do horrible things for racist, psychopathic drug-lord. Why don't we see more characters like this? This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about with making your characters more diverse. It's a classic noir archetype seen in a new and exciting way!

The art by Donaldson is well done. I especially like his characters' facial expressions. You can really see how far Antoine is going by the lost look in his eyes. Donaldson does an incredible job of showing extreme situations, going a long way to demonstrate the brutality of the acts these characters are committing. Which, if you’re not into super- or ultra-violence, might be a turnoff for you.

The diversity of the book is really reinforced by the story. Apart from the flashbacks, Antoine has a Hispanic female partner that never needs saving and they both regularly interact with a diverse neighborhood. There's some really horrific stuff in the flashbacks, but in the present, the worst offender is the casual racism that has yet to be expelled from even today’s society. The kind that gets under your skin. I can't stand racism in stories for the sake of shock value, but I like authors intricately weaving in the subtle, problematic things that still are present in society, because: Yes, they're still a problem, and we desperately need to take care of them.

99 Days is a great noir story with a gripping mystery and an incredible study of a character wrestling with his past demons.

THE GOOD: Great story, diverse cast, ticking clock done well, great characters, good art, great look into damaged psyche.

THE BAD: Some horrendous gory stuff.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ Definitely one of the best noir stories in the series and one of the best noir books I've read, period.

BOOKS LIKE IT: Wolverine Noir, Mr. Murder is Dead, Filthy Rich

ONE-PAGE METAPHOR: Antoine is driving out at night looking for clues to the killings, when he's pulled over. The officer is surprised to learn that Antoine is a detective. There's no big confrontation or demotion or yelling, Antoine just accepts that this racist slight as a normal occurrence. I love that the book acknowledges that even a black detective would get pulled over by the police.

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