Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Comics Review: Liar's Kiss, Eric Skillman & Jhomar Soriano

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

Compelling eye-candy artwork is the saving grace of this graphic novel’s rather tired rehash of detective-story clichés.

Liar’s Kiss, written by Eric Skillman and illustrated by Jhomar Soriano, is a moderately enjoyable subway read. It holds one’s attention without demanding much in the way of concentration. But the fun of it is almost entirely due to Soriano’s artwork.

Skillman’s story--a murder mystery set in contemporary New York--feels more like an exercise than anything written from urgency. The story elements and characters seem assembled from a checklist. The private-eye protagonist is an unkempt, hard-drinking, trenchcoat-and-fedora smartmouth in the Philip Marlowe mold. His client and love interest is the beautiful wife of the murder victim, a wealthy scumbag whom any number of people had reason to want dead. There’s also the loyal secretary, and the cops who are none-too-happy about the detective sticking his nose into their investigation, as well as the inevitable twists and turns that pull the rug out from under one’s assumptions about who is guilty. It’s all very familiar territory.

Jhomar Soriano’s jazzy noir visuals are the main point of interest. They’re elegantly composed and drawn, and the arbitrary, energetic use of black in the brushstrokes, shadows, and silhouettes is quite seductive to the eye. The art is nothing profound--it’s as if Soriano took José Muñoz’s work and wrung out all the expressionistic intensity--but the skill and assurance give it a sleek liveliness that carry one along.

Liar’s Kiss reminds me a good deal of the second-tier efforts in European comics from the 1970s. It’s a glib, hackneyed piece of category fiction, with more misses than hits storywise, but the art makes a terrific case for slickness as an end in itself.

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