Killing Pickman

A comic review article by: Jamil Scalese

Evil lurks among us. I'm not revealing anything to tell you the world is kind of messed up. People die horrifically, and there are plenty others in unnecessary pain and suffering. Luckily, we have comics to escape this terrible world and its horrible truths. Comics like Killing Pickman, a story about a supernatural child murderer. I feel better already.

Killing Pickman is like if detective noir was force-fed an exorcism. The collected edition of Jason E. Becker and Jon Rea's cop thriller about one detective's decisive stand against a demon-empowered serial killer is refreshing piece of work that resonates thematically as much as it does visually. The book never fails to release you from the tension-racked story beginning with a opening scene showing Detective Zhu facing the killer for the first time and ending with their final, satisfying battle. The tale is fundamentally strong, and the roster of characters is personable enough to make this stand beyond the premise.

The goodie-baddie dynamic at the center of this comic is a fascinating battle between characters who only confront each other a few times throughout. The noble and fierce Zhu and the sinisterly measured Pickman represent two above average characters in a package that, while original, has been done before. Traditional cop versus ancient threat isn't new, and there is not much of spin on it here. Rather, Becker pulls the work together with strong dialogue and enough mysticism to make it weird and leave you with questions when it's all done. 

The engine driving this book is the inspired, challenging art by John Rea. The mostly black and white venture is highly stylized, and thoughtfully chaotic, with influences ranging from Sin City to Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Rea's pencils are very sketchy, literally, as most of the work looks like it's prepared for the inking stage, but it feels right in world where the rules of reality are not firm. What sets Killing Pickman part is the experimentation with form: some pages are drawn on notebook paper, others feature messages scribbled on the walls. Moreover, motions by the characters are described with hand written scribbles, and commentary in the form of nursery rhymes and Bible scripture haunt just about every page. I'm not sure if these elements were scripted or not, but they promote the comic above the other fluff on the shelves into something worth your dollar.

The religious overtones don't really speak to me, but they're sublime enough to be able read this as enjoyable story about two individuals on the opposite of the moral realm. Zhu is a serviceable protagonist and Pickman is an extremely alluring villain, as he is quite nonchalant about his path and actions. The layers of his methodology and what makes him tick helped make him more than a bad person who does bad things. 

Some indie comics set out to do something in response to what the bigger guys are or aren't doing. Then sometimes some independent comics just try to be their own thing. Killing Pickman is a refreshingly thoughtful work, that doesn't skimp on story for form. It delivers a classic, yet layered, story and fits it in a slightly different package. When I get done reading something like this I am reminded that I love comics for what it can do and not what for what it has already done.



Jamil Scalese is just like you -- an avid comics fan and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, lover of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation.

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