Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hawaiian Dick #1

Hawaiian Dick #1, December 2002, Image Comics
writer: B. Clay Moore
artist: Steven Griffin

Blogger's note: Entry for Tuesday, January 22, 2008.

I've never been to Hawaii, but I've seen it on television. It's hard to believe that there was a time at which Hawaii wasn't a tourist trap, that, at one poignant point in American history, it was a pre-state status, post-war island of mythical dispute. Interestingly, the real outsider-oriented interest was most likely more vivid during that transitional time, before becoming a part of the United States entailed a gift shop-driven overhaul of the inherent culture. Again, I've never been to Hawaii, but I've seen it in movies and on Dog, the Bounty Hunter, so I could be commenting out of sheer ignorance here.

Fortunately, Moore and Griffin's Hawaiian Dick sheds some light on this bygone era, thankfully through the entertaining lens of pulp detective fiction. In this first issue, Byrd, a private detective, is hired to find a stolen car belonging to dope dealer Bishop Masaki and that contains a mysterious package in its trunk. In a very compelling first page teaser (the equivalent to a TV show's pre-opening credits "mini-act"), one of Masaki's pawns, who intends to betray his boss and ransom the package, gets ironically carjacked, but Byrd, with the help of his towering cop sidekick Mo, beats the street and finds the ride relatively quickly. After a shoot out with the carjackers, the "package" is exposed as a special lady to Masaki, unfortunately caught in Byrd's crossfire. Then, a large, seemingly angry band of drum-beating island savages surrounds them. To be continued, indeed.

Moore and Griffin obviously go to great lengths to instill character, setting, and mood in this inaugural issue, even offering a dense but colorful two-page guide to "Byrd's Hawaii," including a glossary of native terms and a character concept page. This behind-the-scenes glimpse, usually reserved for trade collections, is a great supplemental piece that not only enhances the story but entrenches the reader, creating a similar investment to that of the creators themselves. Rest assured, if someone calls you a haole, it isn't necessarily a put-down.

Griffin's artwork deserves special commentary, as well, since he is presumably responsible for the inks and colors, as well. The bright, blocky cover is impressive enough (and the ad for #2 is even better), but his internal pages, rife with sweeping ink strokes and watercolor-like hues, captures the symmetry of pulp detective and island environs perfectly. Most of the gumshoes I've read are elbow-deep in the city, all trenchcoat-wearing and rain weary, but Byrd and his assuredly nice tan offer a nice, fresh approach to the paradigm. Most days, I'd trade a trenchcoat for a colorful Hawaiian shirt, too.

Of course, the last page appearance of those island savages instills the title with an instant sense of the supernatural, a subtext sure to be thoroughly explored in this miniseries' following two issues. I think I'll make an effort to find them. Though I'm glad the identity of "the package" didn't go the way of DeNiro's Ronin, this Hawaii seems to boast a completely different kind of unknown . . . as it, for a haole like me, still does.

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