Monday, September 5, 2011

The Rinse #1

With no shortage of crime drama on the shelves today, it can be difficult for new books in the genre to make their mark, particularly ones without the benefit of a big-name creative team. In the case of The Rinse, new from Boom! Studios, the goal is to overcome both issues by shedding light on a heretofore under-explored aspect of the shady man's business: the laundering, or "rinsing," of dirty money into nice clean, suspicion-free taxable income. This issue's man of the hour, one Jeff Sinclair, became the best there is at what he does through careful dealings, a razor-sharp mind for the business and more than a few well-placed punches and kicks. He's the under the table high roller's best friend, with a playboy's gift of gab and an attitude like a pulp private eye.

Although we're joining Sinclair at the top of his game, with a wealth of experience and a bed of hundred dollar bills beneath him, that doesn't mean the first issue doesn't deliver its share of elaboration. In fact, the book's half over by the time Jeff removes the training wheels, leaves the paint-by-the-numbers explanations behind and gets on with the story developments. Thing is, for all the effort author Gary Phillips dedicates to explaining the various hoops Jeff jumps through on any given day, I didn't completely buy into the validity of his work. It all seems too straightforward, too effortless and too transparent to escape the eye of his enemies. It's a trend that carries over into the forward-gazing plot threads that stretch their legs in the latter half of this issue, where again our rinser's interactions seem far too on-the-surface to be credible. While the charm of a good noir tale is often in the hints and clues that are left unspoken, The Rinse may as well have spelled everything out on a series of flash cards.

Marc Laming's artwork is a curious choice for such a book. His bright, bubbly style and grinning, happy-go-lucky characterizations seem at odds with the street smart tone of the narrator and the seedy underworld he occupies, like a hot dog stand set up inside the front door of a ritzy club. Laming's best work is in establishing shots, where he showcases a slick, minimal knack for rendering vivid landscapes and bustling city street corners - throw an important character or some action into the mix and he gets tripped up. The mismatch of styles isn't helped by Darrin Moore's shiny, polished color efforts. With a subtle, sleazy palette at play, much of the artwork's shortcomings could have been neutralized. Moore's overuse of warm, friendly shades just drives it further in the wrong direction.

For all the small things this issue gets right - a calm, cool lead, an original take on a crowded genre - there are another dozen larger issues it gets helplessly wrong. Hammy, vanilla dialog is a cardinal sin in a book like this one, but under the right circumstances that can be forgiven. A blunt, predictable plot would take a bit more work to compensate for. Roll all of that up with a badly paired artist, though, and you've got a full platter of problems. Not even a discounted cover price can get this one where it needs to be. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3

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