For day 2 of Noir Comic Week, we're reviewing Fogtown, by Andersen Gabrych and Brad Rader!
Frank Grissel is a hard-boiled detective. After a young hooker turns up dead, he's paid to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. What he'll uncover could shake the city to its foundations, and reveal his true character.
This is easily the most offensive noir story of the bunch. If you really can't stand sexist, racist and homophobic language I'd recommend avoiding this one, because HOO BOY. Having said that, it's very interesting; it's smarter than it has any right to be, and in some cases manages to subvert common tropes.
It's really hard to get over the offensive stuff. Grissel ALONE is a problem. He goes to a gay bar and stirs up the place with some homophobic slurs, and regularly uses racial slurs against Asian people; really hard 50's old-fashioned racism. And there's a lot of stuff with young women being exploited for sex, and gay men, and transphobia – and it's all awful. This is a noir stories that makes you hate humanity. Oh, and I'm pretty sure a character gets raped and winds up dating their rapist at the end?? GROSS. It's pretty obviously trying to hit every possible offensive thing possible.
But then it does things you wouldn't expect that are, dare I say, cool. For instance, instead of having a post-coital bed scene with a half-naked lady splayed out, you get full frontal Frank Grissel! Just a full panel of chubby, hairy, old man parts lying there, unsexy-like. That's different. That’s daring. And I don't want to spoil anything because if you DO decide to try this book, it's a pretty big surprise, but Frank isn't exactly the typical tough guy noir detective you'd expect. He looks and feels like Marv from Sin City, and he can take one hell of a beating, but then – someone you don't expect. And it's AMAZING. Good on them for being diverse and including a perspective of someone you don't usually hear from, especially in the 50's.
However great that is, I don't know if that allows the book to get away with all of the offensive shit it features. I'm not sure people would enjoy that plot twist, considering most people wouldn’t get through, much less enjoy, the rest of the book. It has a level of depravity that a select few will find intriguing, and many others would find obscene.
I'd be remiss in saying I didn't enjoy Rader's art style. It's cartoony and gives feel reminiscent of classic 50's crime comics. The grey tones were nicely done. The writing itself is well done. The characters, however depraved they may be, have tons of flavor and you can never tell what motivations they have until it's too late. The plot is incredibly fucked up, but it's got a great twist.
If you like your noir extra filthy, then you'll probably enjoy this. If you can't get passed how offensive it is, and I completely understand why, it's best to look elsewhere.
THE GOOD: Good art, interesting twist on detective, twisting story, good characters.
THE BAD: Really offensive all around, sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, rape, lots of gross stuff.
THE VERDICT: $$$ I think it's really offensive, but I also think it's done well. And I also wonder if the entire book could be done the way it is while and still be so surprising if it wasn't offensive. It's hard to tell. But anyways, if you want your noir to show a better world, this is not the noir story for you.
BOOKS LIKE IT: Filthy Rich, Mr. Murder is Dead, You Have Killed Me, Sin City
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: Frank is looking for a girl, so he goes to a club. In order to stir the pot, he says a phrase that manages to be racist, homophobic and misogynistic all in one go. He's obviously playing it up to get thrown out, but YEESH.