Monday, November 22, 2010

Turf #3

As far as the basic premise goes, you’ll have to look far and wide to find another series even remotely like Turf. Mixing equal dashes of period piece, crime lifestyle, horror, monster movie cliches, aliens and science fiction, the series bridges several genres for the very first time, perhaps, anywhere. That it can maintain each and every one of them while still managing to deliver a somewhat decipherable narration is nothing short of miraculous.

Writer Jonathan Ross seems to know exactly what he’s after, though, and that certainty and determined conviction allows the series itself to become something entirely distinct, even forgetting the broad range of influences and directions it embodies. It is, unapologetically, its own beast, and for that reason alone it’ll turn off some readers. Even followers with a more open-minded perspective of multi-genre concepts may have some difficulty dealing with Ross’s frequent leaps from one scenario to the next. We’re introduced to new characters with every turn of the page, with changes of scenery occurring every bit as regularly. It’s a tale that might just be too large for its own good, but with such a vast collection of characters, situations and conflicts also comes considerable depth and the promise that, no matter their preference, there’s a story for everyone here.

With a strict, realistic style in the same vein as Alex Maleev and Sean Phillips, Tommy Lee Edwards works the majority of his magic in the incredibly detailed backgrounds and deep black swaths of shadow that envelope most of the book’s panels. He’s a perfect fit when the storyline leans in a more horrific direction, slightly less so when the subject veers towards science fiction. Victorian candles, cultists wearing dark gowns, filthy gumshoes and mysterious well-dressed men are right at home in his artwork – bright exoskeletons and laser blasts, not quite so much. Fortunately enough, the vast majority of this issue takes place in prohibition-era New York, with only fleeting glances beyond the stratosphere. In that dated domestic setting, Edwards’s artwork absolutely sings.

On the surface, this just seems like an anthology of unrelated side-stories set in the same bizarre world, but dig deep enough and you’ll find a sense of connection that holds the entire issue together. It’s not a particularly energetic read, nor is it something that comes quickly into focus, but once it clicks, you’ll realize just how complex and sharp Turf’s story really is. That breadth of scale is both a blessing and a curse, though, for as much as it adds in the long run, it takes away on the short term. The multitude of layers, themes, new faces and conflicting directions make the task of deciphering and enjoying this issue a daunting one, but also incredibly rewarding given a dedicated investment on the reader’s part. Gorgeous artwork, challenging writing and an ambitious subject make this one worth buying.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9

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