ADVANCE REVIEW! Vic Boone #1 will ship in June. The Diamond Order code for the issue is APR111200. It will also be available digitally.
When writer Shawn Aldridge asked if I would review Vic Boone #1 he said it was a hardboiled private detective story set in a futuristic science fiction setting–and that’s exactly what it is. That description is what intrigued me about Aldridge’s story.
When I was twelve years old, my sixth-grade teacher had the class write stories using our vocabulary words for each week. I always wrote an ongoing hardboiled detective story with a weekly cliffhanger. Outside of school, I was writing science fiction stories that I would send off to publishers (who would then send back kindly worded rejections slips).
It was around that same time that I first discovered reprints of Adam Strange stories written by Gardner Fox, penciled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson. The planet Rann, which is where those Adam Strange stories were set, was essentially a futuristic science fiction setting and I often thought how cool it would be if Batman (a sort of hardboiled detective) would stalk the back alleys of Ranagar (Rann’s capital city) at night.
Years later I watched Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and saw just how cool a hardboiled detective in a futuristic science fiction setting could be. Thus, I had high hopes for Vic Boone, and it delivers to some degree.
The illustrations by Geoffo are not in the style I was expecting. Rather than clearly defined pencil work that creates a sense of place, Geoffo’s pencils lean more towards expressionism than the crisp Populuxe style I had expected. However, Geoffo’s style is essentially an expressionistic form of Populuxe.
Geoffo’s line work is reminiscent of the work of the Pander Brothers when they were illustrating Matt Wagner’s Grendel series from Comico about 25 years ago — which makes Vic Boone look a bit like the Pander Brothers doing rough sketches of a mashup of Then Came Bronson and a stereotyped version of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade set in Radiant City from Dean Motter’s Mister X (yet another hardboiled story set in a futuristic city).
Geoffo’s illustrations aren’t bad; they’re just not what I was expecting, as they really do come off more as rough sketches of a generic setting than of a fully realized sense of place.
Similarly, Aldridge’s script seems more like an outline of a story as the pace at which information comes at us is so fast that there’s little room given for character development. It’s almost all plot told in the form of the stereotypical hardboiled detective first-person narrative.
Because of the fast pace at which the plot is presented, Aldridge relies heavily on the various conventions of hardboiled detective fiction. Not only do we have the first-person narrative of the laconic, street-wise protagonist, we also have the stereotypical opening of the wealthy knockout who employs our protagonist because her husband is a) having an affair, b) framing her for murder, and c) trying to have her killed.
Naturally, Vic Boone takes the case and begins to investigate. As the pages turn, chances for characterization are ignored as the plot unwinds — leading, of course, to the protagonist and the wealthy knockout who hired him falling into bed together.
We’ve seen it all before (or variations of it) in such films as Chinatown and the aforementioned Blade Runner. Unfortunately, what those films have that Vic Boone #1 lacks are characters we care about because we have come to know them, and a slower-paced plot that will allow us a chance to get to know those characters.
Still, the elements are in place in Vic Boone that could allow it to develop into a very interesting series as Aldridge continues to develop as a writer. It might be wise to get in on the ground floor of this series if you are interested in the premise of a hardboiled detective in a futuristic setting — which I am (and have been since I was 12 years old). If given the chance, Vic Boone can get better.