Sunday, March 09, 2008

Easy Way #1

Easy Way #1, April 2005, IDW Publishing
writer: Christopher E. Long
artist: Andy Kuhn
duotone colorist: Bill Crabtree
letterer: Robbie Robbins
editor: Chris Ryall

Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, March 7, 2008.

I've been playing catch up all week.

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I took a road trip to visit my family in Arizona, and I've been behind on my A Comic A Day duties ever since. Fortunately, the Wednesday preceding our trip offered a few interesting new releases, hence my reviews of the industry's latest offerings, including All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boys Wonder, Megas, and Kick-ass. While each of these issues offered the opportunity to explore different themes and trends in contemporary comics, I've ignored the nagging from the back of my brain that relying on these fresh issues, and posting reviews less frequently than every day, negates the novelty of my challenge, not to mention the difference between this blog and the hundreds that also review eclectic comic book selections. Still, I press on in the hopes that my mere insight is enough until I can get back track with daily entries about peculiar comics.

Yes, what I'm trying to say is, I've been taking the easy way out, so today's selection is the perfect scapegoat.

Alas, Duncan's struggle is a little bit more complicated than simply reading a comic a day. In Easy Way, Duncan is trying to stay clean and win back his wife and daughter, though circumstances certainly are not making the process easy for him. After eight years of sadness and betrayal, Duncan's wife is ready to move on. What's worse, the guys Duncan bunks with in a sober living home are hatching a scheme to steal and sell other dealers' drugs, which isn't the ideal plan for a former coke-head that's managed to avoid arrest like him. Still, he goes along with the haphazard scheme assured that the money will help him get his life back together -- a scheme which is rather simple and ingenious on writer Christopher E. Long's part. The foursome dog-nap a drug-sniffing K9 and hit up San Diego storage units in the hopes of discovering a cartel in transition between Mexico and the States. They hit pay dirt, but based on his issue's cliffhanger, the proverbial waters ahead are anything but smooth sailing for Duncan and his crew.

Like I said, Long's story is a succinct exploration of drug rehabilitation and petty crime, particularly since Duncan and the three guys he works with aren't underworld kingpins. In fact, Long plays them like Bizarro Jay and Silent Bob types -- drug-addicted goofballs that have retained their personality and sense of humor yet have actually faced consequences for their actions. (At least, I don't think Kevin Smith has a Jay and Silent Bob Do Rehab movie or comic book in works . . .) Andy Kuhn's artwork keeps this issue well grounded with crisp, expressive character interactions and appropriately moody shadow work, though Bill Crabtree's "duotones" are the best use of color I've seen in a comic like this in a long time. Simple black and white wouldn't have captured the complexities of this issue's plot, but a full palate might have made light of the characters' frivolous interplay; yes, a single, shadowy tone creates just the right mood, implying a sense of impending doom while maintaining a visual ebb and flow. Interestingly, the severed thumb on this issue's cover is raised slightly off the page, an entirely unnecessary feature that only emphasizes the image's gore and starkness. Still, this minimalist first impression is an excellent way to wrap up this package, creating a sense of intrigue that dares potential readers, "Pick me up and see what I'm all about."

When dealing with themes of crime or drug abuse, a creative team can easily choose one of two ways to proceed: the story can either reflect the dark underbelly of chemical addiction, with little to no room for levity, or it dodge these themes completely, as Kevin Smith has done, and emphasize the light-hearted frivolity of the drug users' lifestyle. Long, Kuhn, and company have found a successfully way to blend the two approaches in a dramatic and effective way. While I've never lived Duncan's life, I can understand his mentality and the dual desperation either to face his challenges head on or to jump through any back door that presents itself. I'm just grateful that, in telling his story, the creators behind Easy Way opted not to take it.

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