blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Beware the Creeper (2003) #1


Beware the Creeper gets by immediately on charm, though it opens with a violent assault on a sex worker, so it takes a few pages. Writer Jason Hall begins with an “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” establishing the setting. It’s post-World War I, pre-Great Depression Paris. The comic’s a who’s who of guest stars (including Hemingway; Creeper precedes Midnight in Paris’s guest list by eight years). The protagonists are twin French sisters. The French is important because when Hall’s dialogue gets a little wonky, you can just pretend it’s a lousy translation and would sound better en français.

Maddy’s the painter and the wild girl; she has dreams of demon sex. Judith’s the playwright and good sister; she has dreams of their parents dying in the war. The comic repeats their names over and over to try to differentiate the two, but since artist Cliff Chiang’s most distinct visual trait for them is hair cuts, which aren’t always necessary, it can’t quite hammer in the identifiers enough. It’s okay, the comic gets by, but it’d be nice if the characters weren’t just tragic and manic.

They’re the A plot; introducing them, getting them topless because it’s a Vertigo book and they’re French, so it’s “fine,” sending them off to a party where they can interact with the B and C plot. B plot is copper Allain. He protects the local sex workers (best he can against his corrupt department), so he’s investigating the opening assault. He’s also in love with one of the sisters; I think Maddy; doesn’t matter this issue.

Allain the copper is also where the real cracks start showing in the art. Chiang busts ass on Judith and Maddy’s scenes, but he rushes through the Inspector Allain stuff. His facial features change three times a page. As a whole, it’s still okay—Chiang’s 1925 Paris is gorgeous even when faces are inconsistent, and hairstyles and hats are not enough to distinguish the twins. But he’s clearly not working as hard on those scenes.

The C plot is somewhere in between. The C plot is shitty rich kid Mathieu, who wants to be a painter and is jealous of Maddy and might be the serial rapist. He’s certainly the main suspect so far.

The issue ends with another assault, this time someone socially valuable enough to kick off a comic series and a brief appearance of the Beware the Creeper Creeper. There’s been some foreshadowing in Maddy’s paintings, with the final splash page the pay-off.

At the open, it seems like the art’s going to be outstanding, ends up being just okay (with lots of pluses). The writing’s all setup or literary figure cameo and history lesson. They combine to make Creeper compelling without being engaging. So far, anyway.

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