Like the 1980s iconic and trendsetting television series that it’s boldly based on, Joe Casey and Jim Mahfood’s “Miami Vice Remix” #1 explodes with wall-to-wall color and style but does so with a flamboyance and attitude all its own. Back in the day, few — if any — TV shows, including “Miami Vice” itself, featured as many self-censored f-bombs as this comic or contained something so prominently akin to one of this decade’s dominant storytelling genres: zombies.
No, Miami hasn’t been overrun by the undead, but Casey and Mahfood nevertheless go for something notably different from a straight-out adaptation or continuation of the series. It’s a daring take that’s not unlike the TV series when it debuted: it’s edgy, stylish and has a sense of cool despite its decades-old setting. With the characters likely already known to most readers, Casey doesn’t take any time out for leisurely introductions; instead, readers are reintroduced to detective partners Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs in a very familiar and fast-paced setting: a chase through the streets of downtown Miami in yet another Ferrari. The situation, though, is decidedly unfamiliar, as Crockett and Tubbs are the ones being pursued this time and by unexpected pursuers at that, which establishes an immediate hook for the issue.
Mahfood might be the last artist anyone would expect to be associated with a comic based on an old crime drama but defying expectations was long the hallmark of the show, and the same is true here. In typical Mahfood fashion, his characters are cartoonish and greatly exaggerated, in a sense like the show’s characters, who were often comically loud and boisterous. His perspectives are often grossly distorted and the winding streets of Miami, with its jagged and angled buildings, look more akin to something out of a children’s book, but it works so well because it’s such an unexpected approach; it’s a new look that makes the series stand out, with a bold accent that’s true to the groundbreaking nature of the source material. In keeping with this dichotomy, Justin Stewart expands from the anticipated aqua and pink pastels and instead gives the issue a far more colorful, almost psychedelic appearance.
Mahfood takes some other artistic but harmless liberties, such as giving Tubbs’ hairstyle a more modern makeover. It’s all part of what gives the comic its balance between modern and retro cool and it is notable elsewhere, as well. The opening sequence still has enough flamingos and bikini bottoms to evoke the sound of Jan Hammer’s classic theme in readers’ heads, but there are also alterations, such as Crockett and Tubbs’ boss Lieutenant Martin Castillo, whose handlebar moustache and tussled locks make him appear as though he’d be just as comfortable in a spaghetti western as much as a trendy crime story.
In fact, if there’s a weakness to Casey’s story, it’s his characterization of Castillo; amping up a character is one thing, but a hysterical Marty Castillo with eyes bulging and spittle flying is woefully out-of-character; viewers of the show may struggle to recall an episode when the calm and stoic police lieutenant ever even raised his voice. A later scene shows an equally uncharacteristic Castillo at an emotional low, but this moment at least references a past episode that shined a rare spotlight on Miami’s enigmatic top cop.
Casey also throws out a new plot thread involving a connection to another character not seen since the series pilot. The complexity doesn’t end there; Casey introduces other storylines as well, including the aforementioned one involving a gang of the seemingly undead. The setting of this story is ambiguous relative to its place within the show, allowing Casey some flexibility regarding its placement within the series’ continuity, not that there’s any real need to rigidly adhere to it.
There’s one key element to the show that the silent medium of sequential art cannot capture, and that is the mood setting soundtrack. There’s a nod to a Glenn Frey verse that was once featured in the show, but song lyrics scrolled across the top of a panel in a wavy line never really succeed in capturing the same emotion. Still, “Miami Vice Remix” #1 has so much swagger that it establishes a look and vibe all its own, giving the franchise its own unique identity from that of the format that birthed it.