What Mark Waid does with his book, Potter's Field, is perfect. He has taken a real place like Potter's Field and crafted a story full of mystery and noir goodness around it. The real Potter's Field is an island off of New York, Hart Island, where John and Jane Doe's get buried when there is no one to identify their bodies. What mark Waid does is introduce his own John Doe, but this John is the protagonist of the series. A detective of sorts who, with the help of a small group of people, uncovers the secrets of those that are laid to rest in the field.
Mark Waid stumbles upon something that must have all other noir writers wondering why they didn't think of it first.
As I stated above, John Doe uses a small group of individuals to help him solve these mysteries. Adding to the overall mystery is that none of the group knows who the others are that are helping John. And they are as in the dark about their "boss" as they are each other. Mysteries upon mysteries.
The recently released trade, from BOOM! Studios, presents the three-issue miniseries that introduced the concept and characters that inhabit Potter's Field. Also included is the sold-out one-shot, Stone Cold. Though neither gives us much information into the background or motivation of John Doe, (or, as a comic book fan would call it, "his origin."), you don't seem to care. The main focus in both stories is in the body buried in the field, marked only with a number.
The main story, the first three chapters, focus on the murder of a young woman. John Doe is brought in to help solve the case by the deceased woman's twin sister. But, as any fan of the noir genre knows, nothing is ever that simple or as it seems.
The fourth chapter is a done-in-one story that does give us a little insight into John Doe, but without giving us any information at the same time. He is still a complete mystery but we are given more questions. The story itself centers on a female police officer who stumbles into the world of John Doe and how it changes her.
Series creator and writer Mark Waid is probably best known for his super-hero work — Kingdom Come with Alex Ross or his run on Fantastic Four with the late Mike Wieringo, to name a couple — but he knows his mystery and noir. Here he writes us a good mystery that would play just as well in a television drama as it does on the printed page. He gives us the pieces and clues as John Doe uncovers them, allowing us, the reader, to discover the true nature of these unsolved cases.
Series artist Paul Azaceta is the perfect, (there's that word again), artist for the series. His dark, gritty style gives life to the world of John Doe. Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta teamed up recently for a run on Amazing Spider-Man but they work best in a story more centered on reality. Paul's work here relies on using lots of shadows and blacks in the pages and it works.
The trade offers some of those DVD extras that we all love. Nothing too extensive here but it does include the script and pencils to the "John Doe" pilot with original artist Steve Yeowell. This is interesting to read and see as I remember when this series was first announce it was going to be called John Doe. Changing the name to Potter's Field was a good move as was changing artists. Don't get me wrong, I like Yeowell — but Azaceta's work seems tailor made for showing us the Field…
Highly recommended for fans of noir and crime comics.
Steven A. Wilcox is an aspiring comic book artist whose work has appeared in various small press books, mostly from the El Paso, TX publisher; Project4Studios. He has been a comic book fan for as long as he can remember. His favorite part of doing reviews and interviews for Comics Bulletin is it gives him an excuse to read more comics, watch cartoons and talk to his favorite creators. He can be contacted on Twitter at @StevenWilcox72 or on Facebook.