Smoketown Vol.1 (2018 Trade Paperback Review, Scout Comics)
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist(s): Scott Van Domelen
Publisher: Scout Comics
Format: Trade Paperback
Release Year: 2018
Until I walked into Bamf! Comics a little while ago, I had never heard of Scout Comics. Being out of the loop for more than a decade will do that to you I suppose. Luckily in the year or so since I have made Bamf! my home comic store, they have really made it a point to recommend Scout books. But I, not usually being a fan of anything new, just turned a deaf ear and picked up the latest Mark Millar book (who I love). Finally, after asking for some indie books to write up, I decided to take them up on their recommendation. The first book they were excited about was this one; Smoketown.
They described it as “gritty” and “real”. “Gritty” I can get on board with, but “real”? I read comics to get away from real life, not read more about it, dammit! What they didn’t tell me is that it involved organized crime in a small town with the epicenter being a steel mill run by a heartless, yet seemingly benevolent, criminal. The story revolves around a war veteran who has come back from the frontlines and gets mixed up with the boss and becomes his enforcer. The problem is his family and his mental instability. Flashbacks and visions of people he left back in battle plague him, driving him madder and madder…
Eisner-Award nominated writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson tells this hard-boiled story out of sequence, starting near the end of the action and going back in time to tell the full story; it reminded me somewhat of Pulp Fiction in that regard. In fact, the wanton violence made me think of Tarantino films in general. From the first page, I was drawn into this tense, harrowing story. Scott Van Domelen’s art, while not normally being my taste, fits the narrative perfectly. His bold, expressive style moves the gritty, realistic action along nicely and helps portray the underlying darkness and insanity that is about to explode in your face.
Scout has made it their mission to promote and publish creator-owned books, giving the market a much needed shot in the arm of creativity. The company is run by guys you may have never heard of, but are more than impressed with what they have accomplished before starting Scout. You have the former managing editor and associate publisher of Caliber Comics, the editor of the Walking Dead novels, creators and writers, multimedia movers and shakers… the guys at Scout Comics seem to have all of the bases covered. The fact that they are giving a platform to creator-owned comics really makes me want to support them more. Just like in movies, if the director is also the writer, it is usually a lot better film.
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