05th Nov2021

‘Newburn #1’ Review (Image Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Chip Zdarsky | Art by Jacob Phillips | Published by Image Comics

I picked this up purely on the cover alone. Yes, I am one of those people. I am a sucker for a good cover. Not just those pin up type covers, you can keep most of them, but ones that genuinely intrigue you and pull you in. I think of a cover like a one page trailer. This cover looked classy, looked noir, and looked interesting. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Ed Brubaker’s name on this, but instead it was Chip Zdarsky, which isn’t a bad thing at all. There is a connection, though, which is artist Jacob Phillips. Jacob is the son of frequent Brubaker collaborator Sean Phillips, and was also the colourist on some Brubaker/ Phillips books. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon right there. What I’m trying to say is great cover, and I’m expecting a great book. In we go.

We are in comfortable crime territory right from the off. Easton Newburn is a private eye, someone who used to be on the job, but is now on the outside looking in. He’s been called to look over a mob hit, on a certain Carmine Albano. It seems that Newburn is often hired by various crime families, and on this occasion the on-scene detective asks him if it’s the Albanos or the Carraros. It seems Carmine stole coke from his own family so it could have been either. So why are the police helping a private detective who works for crime families? Convenience. In return for access to the crime scenes, Newburn gives back help and suspects names. Kind of a ‘you scratch mine, I’ll scratch yours’ deal. Newburn can follow leads and pursue a case a little differently, as we see with dead man’s neighbour. He draws out information the police couldn’t.

All this is important it seems as New York is simmering on the verge of a gang war, between the old guard Albano Family and the upstart Carraros. If a Carraro did the hit on Carmine Albano, it’s all out war. Newburn is most definitely on the clock. After a bit more tracking, it’s off to speak to local help and informers. First stop, Alexei. Nice to know a person who has cameras the cops don’t necessarily know about. So we know Newburn is smart and connected, but was he a bent cop? is he working for bad people because he just doesn’t care, or is he working the system for his own gain? He’s certainly no saint. Still, he gets results.

The camera ID was one Frankie Carraro, who it seems did the murder, but looks like he was steered into doing so. He was called to the apartment, stuff happened, and Carmine was left dead. The Police are happy with that, the families have agreed to leave things at that, and life goes on. Newburn, though, doesn’t stop there. He thinks he knows who organised all this. Step forward neighbour ‘Karla’. She set it all up, and Newburn makes it clear she’s in deep doo doo. Pointing a gun at him won’t help. Newburn, we learn, is on retainer to all the major crime families in New York. The Mafia, Yakuza, Russians, Triads. He’s akin to a U.N Inspector who is a fair, independent voice in disputes. No one can touch him, or all the others will touch them.

You kind of want to hate Newburn but you kind of admire him. Everyone hates him but everyone needs him. Villains, Police, doesn’t matter. Zdarsky has created a great character and a great set-up here, and if George Clooney isn’t optioning this as we speak he’s a crazy man. Think Michael Clayton and you’re close. The art by Jacob Phillips was pitch perfect for this. It had a timeless quality, at times feeling sixties, at times here and now. The noir ‘feel’ though was constant. The page layouts meant you could read it like a movie storyboard, nice conventional panels making it flow nicely. This was great stuff. There was also a short back up, by Nadia Shammas and Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub, which looks promising but I’ll hang judgement on for now to give it a bit more time to get going.

I really enjoyed this. Classic noir, but with a fresh coating of the modern too.

**** 4/5

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