by Bryce Carlson, Vanesa R. Del Ray and Niko Guardia
The danger of placing a book in a setting as distinct and atmospheric as Hit 1957 is that it sets an expectation about tone and the aesthetic of the book. To tell a tale about the crime world of the 1950s, so much has to go right. Bryce Carlson returns to the world of Hit with Vanesa Del Ray and Niko Guardia with a noir tale that blurs the moral line and where every character has made some compromise along the way. Hit 1957 not only has to meet the expectations of a tale set in such an environment, but must hold up to the previous story arc. In this first chapter, Carlson puts a lot on the table, but manages to capture the right spirit and tone through narration and Del Rey’s visuals.
Hit 1957 opens with an internal police bulletin that details the last known whereabouts of a thirteen-year old boy before diving into the tale of Bonnie Brae, currently known as Marie Collins and previously known as Bonnie Blair, or simply “trouble.” Instantly, the reader can feel a sensation that something is amiss and Carlson’s narration is expertly written. He manages to set the perfect noir tone, while also filling in new readers with important information from the previous arc. Hit 1957 is definitely the next chapter in a larger overall series, but new readers should have a good bit of information provided to confidently jump into this brand new arc. Ms. Brae seems to have made a name for herself, and despite changing it, her past has come back to haunt her. Not only is the craft quite apparent in how these lines are written, Carlson manages to find ways to tie the same life lesson into the story over and over and from more than one character. It is a great thematic piece that adds a great subtle touch behind the events of this first chapter.
While Carlson has an excellent handle on the tone and voice of the story as well as some of its characters, Hit 1957 does drop a lot of names very quickly. Readers will need to remain patient and rest assured that before the end of the opening chapter, much of this information is actually rather manageable. However, within the first third of the book, readers will be juggling nearly a dozen different names and nicknames. In the moment, this is a bit daunting. While there are a good number of characters in play quite quickly, Carlson focuses on just two of them for the majority of the issue, and there is a balance that emerges over time. Slater and Bonnie are the most well-rounded and featured here, and as the book has more time to breathe, each feel fully developed. Carlson is able to find a way to have these individuals feel like part of the crime archetype and still have pieces that make them unique and original. In a fantastic sequence, Bonnie frees herself and overwhelms her captors. Moments later she is engaging in a rather casual, albeit superficial, conversation with mobster Vicent Christianos. Her candor, considering the bodies just a mere few feet away, makes the encounter all the more entertaining.
The writing of Hit 1957 is absolutely impressive. Even if there are moments when the information seems to overwhelm, the prose at work and the atmosphere captured still remain intact. From a visual perspective, Hit 1957 #1 has some trouble. Del Rey crafts some great images in the story. Her character designs and some of the sets are a perfect fit for the tone and era that Carlson has created. The trouble in this first chapter is that a good portion of the book is hard to make out because of the use of blacks and dark colors from Niko Guardia. While many scenes do take place outside at night, or in a dark room, the use of blacks and shadows make some of the sequences a bit challenging to follow. For the moments that take place in more well-lit settings, or a scene that follows Slater in his car, shifting from red to blue as the narrator talks of demons, Hit 1957 works on all planes. But, the number of scenes that seem darker and more sparse than needed put a bit of a damper on an otherwise great first issue.
Hit 1957 has a lot going for it. When the issue’s many elements find their rhythm, the issue is absolutely fantastic and showcase just how great the arc can be. The slight overwhelming sensation early from gathering so much information and the few sequences that have some trouble with balancing the colors create some minor bumps. Still, there is more than enough here to be confident in looking forward to the next issue and expecting great things in this new arc.