There should be a trigger warning on Brian Buccellato’s inaugural issue of Lowlifes, since IDW Publishing neglected to do so, I am giving one for my review.
Lowlifes #1 has the violence that you would expect from a comic with a dead woman on the cover but it also has scenes and talk about a brutal rape and continued harassment by the victims still free rapist. Lowlifes starts with a flash forward that ends with a literal bang before jumping to introduce us to the world of the characters. Buccellato weaves a story of Richard, a cop set out for vengeance, Leonard (Lenny) who starts the story in a shady gun deal in a car and, and Wendell an unseen force that connects the story.
While this premiere issue clues us in on the three main characters, it doesn’t actually explain what’s going on with the story. The only person who we get to know is Richard and we discover more about his wife than we do about him.
The gritty, muted artwork by Alexis Sentenac goes well with the story that Buccellato aims to tell and the palette choices prepare the readers for the story of rape, murder, and brutal violence that Lowlifes explores. It’s reminiscent of early 80s depiction of Hell’s Kitchen in Daredevil. While Sentenac’s style matches the story it isn’t very original and seems kind of stale and derivative. Some of the panels reminded me too much of 80’s comics. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because it serves it’s purpose but it lacks the unique charm, shadows, and ominous tone of the original. Some of the panels seemed like things I’ve seen before. The comic isn’t very pretty, and it shouldn’t because of the story, but usually when this style of art is used the artist attempts to tweak it and make it into another character in the story. Sentenac just misses the mark in that aspect. Considering the material that Sentenac was working with, he does a pretty good and gets high praise from me for the way he frames the rape flashback. It’s not sensationalized and seems rather respectful to the female form and the character.
Overall, the comic isn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. It’s kind of underwhelming. If Buccellato was only going to focus on one character he could have let us into the characters life more. Instead he shows us the age old trope of man seeking revenge for his raped love because he didn’t arrive in time to save her. The scenario is very predictable until it’s ludicrous. Richard doesn’t manage to actually arrest the guy, even though he chases him and the rapist harasses his wife with presents after the attack because he was never charged. While that does happen, the particulars of the way things go down are highly unlikely. You can tell the rape storyline was written by a man because of how he thinks it goes down and what’s worse it appears to be a man who has never watched a crime procedural because, if he had he would have know that there were other ways to catch this guy and, if he knew that then Richard, a cop, would have known that too.
I realize that the story needs something to propel itself forward and explain why a “good cop” would get involved with a criminal but the reasoning doesn’t make sense. I don’t approve of using a woman’s suffering to propel a man’s story as a general rule but the hackneyed, unrealistic and, implausible way that Buccellato writes this scenario makes it a boring story. The story is 20 pages in a 34 page comic and perhaps the issue would have made more sense, been more cohesive, and given more backstory if they had afforded the creative team more pages. I know more about Richard’s wife than I do about him and if he’s a central character, then her story shouldn’t be the driving force in his. It’s cliched and it’s been done before and better.
Even taking the haphazardly rehashing of a sexual assault out of the equation, the story itself is very one dimensional and rather boring, much like the art work it is paint by numbers and tries to contain everything the writer heard that a story like this should contain but lacks the heart , soul and levels that people who have done it before used to make it work.
Story: Brian Buccellato Art: Alexis Sentenac
Story: 5.4 Art: 6.5 Overall: 5.9 Recommendation: Read
IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review