Written by Christa Faust, Gary Phillips | Art by Andrea Camerini | Published by Titan Comics
I always feel as though I need a shower after reading Peepland. This is not the nostalgic 1980′s of a John Hughes movie, this is a dark, seedy underbelly peopled by bad people doing very bad things, and good people doing bad things for good reason. Or so they think. Sex worker Roxy and boyfriend Nick, in dragging that tape with the murder on it all over town, have inadvertently escalated events as rich slime ball Simon Went tries to find them, killing everyone in his way. There’s a whole lot more going on than that of course, but Roxy and Nick are the hooks on which everything else hangs.
Detective Alvarez was a pretty sleazy cop we found out last issue, trying to use a genuine witness to the murder to blackmail Simon Went, who has been busy framing the son of one of Roxy’s friends. Turns out Alvarez wasn’t even the worse in his own cop partnership, as he is executed by his own partner Detective March. March, on something of a roll as well as being on someone else’s payroll, also kills the witness and gets orders to track down Roxy. Roxy and Nick have played their one last card, and taken the tape to the Downtown Daily, a local paper. As proof that innocence really cannot survive in Peepland, Aiesha’s son, Zee, perhaps the purest and best soul in the whole book, meets a tragic end. Already contemplating suicide after the false accusation of murder against him, a racist thug pushes him off a roof.
Roxy’s sick uncle Leo, also something of an innocent in all this, dies protecting Roxy’s whereabouts. Just as the circle is tightening on Roxy and Nick, the Downtown Daily publishes the story about the tape, exposing Rob Went as the killer. Simon Went plans a cushy deal for his son, a psychiatric hospital luxury stay and a swift parole, but Peepland doesn’t let people off that easily. Rob Went pays for his crime. Unfortunately, a lot of people pay the ultimate price, most of whom don’t deserve to, but I’ll leave that for you find out yourself.
This was a final, breathless run around the 1980′s Time Square on New Year’s Eve 1986. Not a love letter as such, but a remembrance of a time and place that no longer exists. Those people and places are phantoms now, but their stories deserved telling and boy did Christa Faust and Gary Phillips tell them. This was a living, breathing world filled with people just trying to get by but more often than not doomed to failure. The writers never judge their characters, just tell their stories, which they do superbly. Gritty, violent, visceral, and real. Fine storytelling.
The artwork by Andrea Camerini maintained its quality to the last. Always strong visuals and characterisation, Camerini was very adept at using photo reference of that era, with many Easter eggs and visual clues thrown in. It made the story being told against that background even more effective. The pacing of the layouts this issue was very good, the story being pretty much non-stop, cutting from character and scene to character and scene seamlessly. Fine work.
Good guys always finish first, right? Well, not always. With this final issue, on balance I would say there was a draw, or at best a very pyrrhic victory for Roxy. As Peepland kept reminding us, this was never a fairy tale, it was always going to be a true reflection of a time and place. To do these characters justice, you don’t get a nice, happy ending, you get the realistic one.
As it should be.
Peepland #5 is out now from Titan Comics.