“The White Suits” is a book without a time, a place or even a named protagonist, but that never slows it down as Frank J. Barbiere and Toby Cypress debut the series with a hailstorm of bloodshed, violence and mystery. Taking influence from classic noir thrillers, this largely black-and-white issue weaves between an amnesiac struggling with flashes of his brutal past and the White Suits’ savage takedown of the criminal underworld. With its gritty yet poetic narrative style and absolutely stunning artwork, “The White Suits” #1 marks a strong start for the series.
Though the series’ setting is (as of yet) ambiguous, this works in its favor by allowing it to exist in a modern yet classic sphere; despite the fact that our only hint is the blaring Daft Punk music at the strip club and a few surveillance cameras, Barbiere and Cypress otherwise forgo modern staples like cell phones and computers, at least in this issue. Without the restraints of a set time period, the series is free to play with its noir film roots, moving between dingy barrooms and seedy gang-front strip clubs for full effect. What’s more, the issue never clearly states just where this is all taking place (though it’s likely safe to assume it’s in America), which gives the book a well-rounded, almost universal feel. Although the lack of character names can be annoying after a point, it’s not so poorly handled as to detract from the overall story.
Additionally, the interplay between the text and the artwork is phenomenal. Barbiere overlays Cypress’s opening execution scene with strong body imagery in the text, providing nice visual symmetry between the words and the art. The synchronization provides an almost poetic — if violent — atmosphere that colors the rest of the issue. It’s this opener that truly grabs the reader and pulls them into the story, but their continued harmony holds them through the rest of the story.
On that same note, Cypress’ work on this book is absolutely magnificent and distinct. He pays no attention to realism, opting for wispy figure work and blurred backgrounds, which benefits the abstract nature of the protagonist’s amnesia. His first splash page steals the entire show, employing a gorgeous collage effect to symbolize our main character’s fragmented memories; it’s enough to give readers an idea of who he is (or was), laid out in one dazzling, well-wrought piece. Cypress continues this collage effect throughout the issue, in such a way that he literalizes the protagonist’s stream of consciousness with a bold and captivating style. Further, his coloring method is fantastically unique. Overall, he opts for a black-and-white scheme that captures the noir feel of the book, interspersing scenes with splashes of red and — rarely — full color spreads that highlight key objects and scenes. These switches are jarring, but in the best possible way, fully grabbing hold of the reader’s attention.
“The White Suits” #1 makes a strong showing for Barbiere and Cypress’ latest venture. Fans of the mystery/thriller genre particularly will delight in the enigmatic characters and dark, shady artwork.