Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: The Courtyard

The Courtyard is an Alan Moore work, with a handful of H.P. Lovecraft influences and grace notes. This dark and moody two issue comic starts out in the run-down apartment of F.B.I. agent Aldo Sax. Sax is working on a special case, fifteen murders, all the victim's midsections have been carved open to resemble what looks like a flower. Here's the kicker: There are at least four different murderers, and no direct links between the killers. Furthermore, none of the details have gone public, so there is no chance of these being copy-cat killings. Which is why Sax is on the case, he specializes in Anomaly Theory; scrutinizing the evidence, parceling out the troublesome details, and finding obscure bits that don't typically fit into F.B.I. murder profiles.

One such obscure detail leads Sax to Club Zothique, there he meets with an informant called Joey Face, learns about a mysterious new drug called "Aklo", and is aimed in the direction of the lisping, bandanna wearing, Johnny Carcosa, a reputed aklo dealer. Sax soon finds out that nothing is what it seems...

The Courtyard is an awesome piece of work done by a true master of the comic medium. The story was initially a prose story of Moore's and it was expertly adapted for the comic medium by Antony Johnston. Though short, this is a story that feels very big. That's probably because of the massive amounts of hints and foreshadowing that seemingly fill the pages. As the reader you get the sense that you are really only getting a small slice of the entire pie. I felt like I was in on the investigation, searching for clues, and trying to read into what certain characters said, to get more meaning or to find hidden clues. This made for a really fun read.

The main character and narrator, Aldo Sax, is interesting. For starters, he's totally racist. So, needless to say, he's more of an anti-hero than a guy you cheer for. Sax is a pretty sharp detective though, and it is interesting to be inside his head for the entirety of the story. Being in his head does get weird at times, but it is always interesting.

The comic itself utilizes a seldom seen panel format. It is really basic: two long, vertical parallel panels side by side. This format is present on each and every page, aside from a couple of splash pages. Though it is uncommon, I really liked the format. It gives the story a consistent flow, which I think is important given the pacing of the story. It also adds to the eeriness and tension, as events move at the same rate no matter the page.

The artwork of The Courtyard is also pretty great. The artist, Jacen Burrows, does a fantastic job of giving this story some grit. The art and the story fit together like puzzle pieces. Burrow's work compliments the creepy feel of the narrative, and gives life to the settings. There is a lot of repeated imagery, which I found interesting, because despite being the same drawing, it could have different meanings given the contexts. Really great work by Burrows, I think he's a perfect artist for this piece.

There is so much hinted at, and seemingly so much more to find out after reading The Courtyard, which is why I'm excited to be reading its sequel, the miniseries Neonomicon. The first issue of the follow up mini-series can be found in your local comic shop now. Despite it being short, there is a lot to be found in The Courtyard. This is a great example of how amazing the comics medium can be. Check it out, you will not be sorry.

Grade: A+

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