ADVANCE REVIEW! Blue Estate #1 will come out on April 6, 2011
Blue Estate begins in a sequence that’s too clever by half. Hapless private dick Roy Devine Jr. is seated at his desk, preparing to play his Law and Order™: Special Victims Unit video game on his Wii™, decked out in some snazzy Sony™ studio head phones. The scene is colored in the saturated bluesy hues of CSI™ and Devine just happens to bear more than a passing resemblance to a certain redheaded, overweight movie “critic” web overlord. From there we meet our dame, Rachel Maddox, who just so happens to be married to a man who looks and acts like a ‘90s action star (hint: he’s the one who now masquerades as a police officer on reality TV).
Blue Estate is very much of the school of thought that you can never have enough references. If your name is a) Simon Pegg or b) Edgar Wright, then this just might work out in your favor. Otherwise, not so much. Unfortunately, the credits at the start of Blue Estate fail to feature either of those names.
Scripted by Andrew Osborne and based on an “original” story by Viktor Kalvachev and Kosta Yonev, Blue Estate has plenty of cooks in the kitchen. That matryoshka doll style of collaboration carries over to the art as well, which finds no less than four artists putting together the story of “The Rachel Situation.” The collaborative art is in some senses the book’s selling point, with Blue Estate hyped as the comic book equivalent of something like hip-hop’s Odd Future crew. And it makes sense, to a certain extent.
The self-aware, referential opening sequence by Nathan Fox needs a neon-noir dressing for the joke to be clear, the pairing of those comic lens filters and the aggressive product placement an obvious statement on the state of crime lit. Similarly, the history of the femme fatale’s romantic entanglement with action star Bruce Maddox needs Robert Valley’s cartoony, larger than life style. Even the weakest point, the back half and Toby Cypress’ scratchy abstraction, isn’t weak because of awkwardness or lack of flair, instead only lesser because of what it follows.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that you’ve seen this all before and you’ve seen it better. From other mediums you’ve got Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is itself infinitely referential but completely original, never feeling stale or overdone. From our own medium there’s the recent Vertigo Crime books, which weren’t all vital but were uniformly exciting in their twisting of the nature of noir, especially Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos’ Filthy Rich.
Blue Estate has its moments and there is some promise to its methods but it ultimately fails to generate the kind of excitement it should. The book is strictly style over substance, with its story of Devine and his placement in the Maddox’s domestic issues and Bruce’s convoluted involvement in some kind of Russian mob troubles a whole heaping barrel of cliches and tropes. Blue Estate may find its footing before too long and wind up as something that’s more than just a pretty face, but for the moment you owe yourself something a little more adventurous.