A review a day: <i>The Colodin Project</i>

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book ... but what I got was pretty damned cool!

The Colodin Project is a new graphic novel (actually, it's a collection of five issues, none of which ever made it into Previews) by Ken Krekeler. It is, unfortunately, volume 1 (and I say that only because I don't know how long it's going to take Krekeler to get another volume out, if he ever does - he writes on his blog that it's planned for 21 (!) chapters).

It's published "in association" with Ronin Studios and Tool Publications and costs $14.99. Plus, it's eco-friendly! You can check out the web site here, where you can also purchase the book if you're so inclined.

All I knew about The Colodin Project when I ordered it from Previews was that it was an odd murder mystery. That's the way it begins, but it quickly becomes something much stranger and compelling. We begin with a federal agent interviewing a man named Steven Richards, and she gives us hints about the weird things that have been happening in the world. Richards knows something about it, and when she mentions "Colodin," he flashes back six months, to when he was just an ex-cop, current private investigator, working divorce cases and other boring stuff. Naturally, he gets a new and intriguing client, a man who wants him to look into a recent unusual death that the cops don't seem to care about. A homeless man was found strapped to a bier and burned - the press calls it a "Viking funeral." When Richards investigates, he comes up with a name: Quinn Valrite. He digs some more and begins to find out some unusual things about Quinn Valrite. He also finds out he's actually working for a big-time gangster, Ellsworth Carlyle, who wants to find Quinn Valrite for his own reasons. And what's up with the weird interludes starring giants and ethereal blue creatures? What's going on there?

I don't want to spoil that, because part of the fun of this book is the way Krekeler slowly unravels the mystery.

Richards follows leads and gets pieces of information from everyone he talks to, eventually confronting Quinn Valrite and learning much more about him. Krekeler sets up a nice story that deals with possible alternate realities (or are they?), philosophy and its impact on the world, and how to determine what's evil and what's not. He makes Richards our stand-in, voicing our doubts and raising our concerns everywhere he turns. It's nicely done, and when Richards starts to get more and more involved, we follow along with him, until Krekeler leads us back to the interview room, where Richards breaks down a bit because of what he's done (which we don't know yet, of course, as that will come in later volumes). Krekeler wants to examine what makes society work and what happens if sections of society disappear, and it's an interesting take on the idea that some people are "better" than others. Everyone wants to believe they're special, after all, and Krekeler twists this conceit well as he's telling the story. It's a gripping read, not only for the mystery, but for the ideas Krekeler raises about our culture and society.

Krekeler explains his art process on his blog, but I'm just going to mention how it looks, not how he does it. It's obviously heavily photo-referenced, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

He creates a very moody world, and nicely contrasts the look of the scenery by using occasional garish colors to throw us off-balance. The strange interludes are also colored strangely, highlighting the fact that they're supposed to take us out of our comfort zone. Early on in the book, the art and colors reflect the noir-ish tone Krekeler is going for, and as the book gets stranger, his art gets stranger. Richards slowly moves into a world he's completely unfamiliar with, and Krekeler does a nice job showing that. The final image is a nightmarish, indeterminate background with a small figure flying through the foreground. It sums up the strange turn this book has taken very nicely.

I really hope Krekeler is able to complete this, because it's a terrific first volume with a cool mystery that appears to have more on its mind than your standard murder tale. Krekeler has created some very nice characters and put them into a bizarre world that feels all too familiar. This is more philosophical than you might think, but it also crackles with action and tension. It's a bit under the radar, but it's definitely worth your time.

Tomorrow: Hey, is that Bruce Willis?

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