Review: Trista + Holt #4

T&H4Trista & Holt #4 (Iffy Commix) by Andrez Bergen picks up where things left off at the end of #3 with the death of mob wheel man Lou Holden. The fall-out continues only this time instead of Alaina Holt planning mayhem against the Cornwall family, it’s Marcella Cornwall who’s calling the shots as she plays the piano, orchestrating a hit against the Holt family enforcer, Moore Holt. Trista questions the wisdom of Marcella’s recent strike at the Holts but Marcella takes her to task and demands she perform the next hit. Trista is rattled by the idea but Marcella, equal parts Brooke Astor and Ma Barker, is dangerously persuasive, and Trista is loyal to a fault.

Once again, riveting narrative and gorgeous imagery combine to create a comic experience like no other. The story itself is absorbing and the images are fascinating in themselves: from the various evocative versions of the women representing Trista, to alarmingly detailed pictures of guns and weaponry, and vintage docu-photos of downtown urban landscapes and mob funerals. Sometimes the black and white images are crystal clear, others under or overexposed or even blurred as if to illustrate varying shades of emotion, intensity, or even madness; the visual see-sawing between absolute clarity and confusion adds a great deal of depth to the narrative and insight into the psyche of certain characters. For example, at the beginning when Trista and Marcella are discussing recent events involving Marcella’s latest foray into violence, Marcella goes from looking like a genteel matriarch to a slightly blurred and distorted woman about to go on a bloodthirsty rampage. In the final frames of the scene she looks like a disturbed Angela Lansbury—possibly another wink at ‘70’s and ‘80’s T.V. that often surfaces in this series–in #3 we learned Issy’s fave show is CHiPs; the car from Starsky & Hutch figures prominently; other subtle references abound–so this time I’m reminded of Murder, She Wrote. Only instead of solving murders, Marcella is hell-bent on committing them (or having them committed).

The ethereal floral wreath cover image for this issue is appropriate on many levels because funerals figure prominently here, and at the funeral there’s a frisson of attraction between Issy Holt and Trista—doomed romance? Few words are exchanged but once again it’s the juxtaposition of images that says more than words. Here it’s the looks exchanged between Trista and Issy (is it me or does Issy look remarkably like a young Paul Newman?) that alludes to complications, good and bad, ahead for both of them.

TristaThere’s a big “if” involved, however. Trista’s never shot a person before and now she’s preparing to go out on her first hit under the mentorship of her confidante, Governal. He warns her constantly that she could be in over her head. She dismisses his concerns but deep down knows he’s right. One thing about Bergen’s heroines that I’ve come across from Mitzi of Bullet Gal to Trista is that even with their beauty, toughness and the confidence they wear like armor, they are not immune to fear, twinges of conscience, fatigue, confusion, getting shot and bleeding profusely. They feel things intensely but never let the gangsters (male or female) around them see them sweat, cry or hesitate. It’s a matter of survival—and pride, perhaps, and it keeps their enemies on edge. In their respective underworlds, these young women are savvy enough to know that image is almost everything, but you need guts and the right gun to back it up.

TH-4 sample 6As we see Trista in one of the final frames wearing a chic coat with a fabulous wide leopard-print collar, we know about (because she tells us) but can’t see her fear and apprehension. She looks like she’s blithely heading out to drinks and dinner at a posh restaurant instead of a gangland hit. She has a job to do and she’ll do it, dire warnings, leaden nerves, scratchy throat and all. Then once again all too soon, the harrowing outcome leaves us hanging as we return to the very beginning of this installment, a la Sunset Boulevard. Trista’s not telling her story from the same place as Joe Gillis, but the extent of the damage on both sides is yet unknown.

Trista & Holt is epic neo-noir: hardcore gangster, dark and Byzantine, with flashes of humor and well-placed pop-culture references that cut through the dim shadows like afternoon sun through the slats of a Venetian blind. Check out Trista & Holt #4 but be careful; it’s seductive and highly addictive.

Writer/Artist: Andrez Bergen
Story: 10 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10
Recommendation: Buy

Creator/ publisher provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.