30th Nov2017

‘Doctor Radar #1′ Review (Statix Press)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Noel Simsolo | Art by Bezian | Published by Statix Press/Titan Comics

Doctor_Radar_1_Cover-A

Although my comic book tastes have always primarily been skewed to American comics, and especially Marvel and DC superhero titles, I am always happy to have a dabble outside of my comfort zone. I think it’s good on a personal level to expand your horizons, and it’s good to support a diverse as possible group of books on the shelves. Both those reasons, or either one of them, are good enough reason to pick up this book. Doctor Radar was originally published in France in 2014, and going on Titan Comics track record in selecting European comics to reprint, I have high hopes for it.

The first few pages give us a taste of what is to come. Set in 1920 France, the moody art and muted colours instantly give us a strong noir flavour. We start with a prologue of sorts, as a scientist boards a train while two obvious ne’er -do-wells sneak on as well. They murder him, and steal his briefcase. This seems to be another in a series of murders of eminent scientist, something that has caught the attention of our hero, gentleman detective Ferdinand Strauss. Strauss, to my modern eye, seems to be a blend of Batman and Sherlock Holmes. Independently wealthy with a desire to fight injustice, like Bruce Wayne, he also enjoys solving crimes that stump the Police, like Sherlock Holmes. If you are going to imitate, imitate the best.

Strauss has already realised the connection between the dead scientists, they were all working on theories of space exploration. After speaking to the most recently deceased scientists wife, he realises a group of scientists had been corresponding and sharing ideas, and all now seem to be at risk. At the same time, another of those scientists, Professor Lenoir, has an appointment with a mystery man known only as Doctor Radar. Radar seems to be the man behind these murders, and when Lenoir refuses to sell his invention is murdered by use of a scorpion by Radar’s henchmen. Strauss arrives too late to save Lenoir, but quick enough to find the scorpion and kill it. They rush up to confront Radar, but all that is left is a discarded disguise.

Another happy coincidence is that Strauss bumps into friend Pascin, a seemingly colourful degenerate and alcoholic who is also very good at painting. Pascin is a handy guy to know, as he fraternises with the shadier side of society, and soon a madam gives them a lead, recognising a sketch of one of the henchmen. Knew Pascin being an artist might be more than a coincidence. Of course, asking questions in dodgy drinking dens doesn’t go unnoticed and a little conflict is inevitable. Strauss, being a former war hero, seems more than capable of handling himself. Unfortunately now the Police get involved, and Strauss’s opinion of them is the same as Sherlock’s is of Scotland Yard.

Time to follow up a promising lead, a Russian scientist called Kirizoff, who has links to the other. Strauss has to accept having the police tag along for this one. I’m no detective but clearly Kirizoff was not who he claimed to be, and his fake moustache pretty much sealed the deal. Bad at disguises yes, but good at speedy escapes. Kirizoff, or Radar as he clearly is, takes off into the sewers and escapes. As the closing panels suggest, he has a new angle he will soon be pursuing.

There’s a lot to like here, and a little not to. I love the atmosphere, the stylish feel to the art, and the very pulp noir tale being told. I ‘m not so fond of the very tight layouts, with many very small panels that, due to the scratchy style of art, are sometimes hard to decipher. The very murky colours also make this tricky to follow, though stylistically they do a nice job. The script is ok, though I was expecting something  a little more smarter than what was delivered. I kept waiting for some plot zinger, but none came.

It is enjoyable though. A gem, but a semi-polished one.

***½  3.5/5

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