Following the strong "Magus" mini-series this past year, 12-Gauge brings us another interesting mini-series with impressively powerful art, in "Loose Ends" #1.
In "Loose Ends" #1 we're introduced to a waitress (Cheri) and a guy in a car (Sonny). We're not sure what they're about, but the guy in the car is doing some kind of shady deal, and we take a short pop back into the past to get a feel for what that shady deal is (drugs!). Eventually, as all the players materialize, we realize that another waitress inside (Kim) is Sonny's ex and it sounds like they share a kid together. Sonny tries to give her some money, but she seems unconvinced. When Cheri is attacked by some drunk regulars in the bar, Sonny tries to help and the whole thing goes horribly wrong and ends very badly for at least one of the players. It's a surprisingly good twist and it feels both unexpected and also natural. It's the kind of horrible thing that really does happen to people when things get out of control, especially with weapons and alcohol involved.
The writing by Jason Latour is solid throughout. All his characters have very distinctive voices but with a similar strain that mark them clearly as certain kinds of people who live certain kinds of places and do certain kinds of things. While it's a very specific style of writing that may not appeal to everyone, Latour smartly commits to it wholeheartedly (the same way Brunner does with the art) and, as such, it comes together very nicely. The plotting is surprisingly smart, with the book unfolding naturally and believably but with an unexpected twist that makes it far more interesting than expected.
Chris Brunner's art is a dream that skirts the line brashly between cartoony and realistic. It's consistent and appealing, well-paced and easy to follow, beautiful and potent. But what really hits home about it is how damn cool it is. Brunner chooses a look for "Loose Ends" and 100% commits to it, never faltering. It might not be a style that appeals everyone (much like the writing), but it's interesting and vibrant and kinetic, a real (and much needed) breath of fresh air in comics. Brunner's art feels young, smart, and unique while hinting at lots of wide-ranging influences. Brunner uses some different techniques for his flashbacks which work to good effect, and he isn't afraid to make bold choices to illustrate things like characters thoughts, or the fact that a character is getting very very drunk. Brunner's panel layouts are particularly strong and well chosen, never feeling overly showy, but giving us the maximum impact for our story.
The lettering and sound effects, which will perhaps put some off, and initially I was skeptical about, had me sold by page five, when I realized it was yet another way in which the creators were fully committing to the look and feel of this book. The sound effects of Cheri's flip flops as they literally "flip flop, flip flop" across a parking lot is the panel that solidified for me that I was going to love this book. The colors, by Rico Renzi match Brunner's wild modern art moment for moment and panel for panel. They hit the page like a bomb going off, but a precise gorgeous bomb.
"Loose Ends" is ballsy and bold, and I wish more comics could be like this book. While we all know that every story out there has been seen before and too frequently done to death, the execution in this first issue by Lautner, Brunner, and Renzi is straight up sublime.