Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, and Lee Loughridge‘s saga of oil rigs, Russian gangs, and revenge takes a turn for the violent as in various guises, Piotr tries to find the person responsible for ordering the hit on his son, Kiril, who went to the dangerous city of Blackstone to start a new life and find a place where he would be free to be a bisexual man even if it’s dangerous. Crude #3 is peppered with flashbacks as Piotr wishes he would be a father, and every twelve hour shift, punch thrown, and bone broken is in service of finding some kind of closure. Except, by the time the issue ends, this mission of vengeance is much more complicated.
Brown and Loughridge’s visuals in Crude #3 run the gamut from explosive to mundane. There’s a twelve, nearly silent panel page showing Piotr’s life as an oil rig worker for evil conglomerate PetroPinnacle, and then several pages later, there’s a huge, orange explosion when rival gang Meshe Adam suicide bombs where he works. These two scenes encapsulate what Piotr’s co-worker Mikhail says the reason why many people go to Blackstone: to make lots of money and experience danger that is the opposite of the rocking chair and watching biathlon on TV life that Piotr settled into back in Crude #1. While still following the throughline of Piotr’s vengeance quest, Orlando and Brown dive face first into the lurid, vile world of Blackstone, including strip clubs, back alleys, rooftops, and bath houses because nothing trips up toxic masculinity like some straight up homoeroticism.
Like almost all of the comics he works on, Lee Loughridge and his color choices set the tone and are the unsung heroes of Crude #3 as well complementing Garry Brown’s combination of scratchy and minimalist inking styles. A sequence featuring the skyscraper HQ of PetroPinnacle has a rancid color palette as sickly, Industrial Revolution-seeming smoke billows surround the tower and instantly signal corruption before a word is spoken or an action is carried out. Later, in the book, Loughridge goes for pure sex with a dark pink palette as Piotr tries to be one of the guys and goes to a strip club after work. Finally, there are the harsh blacks to go with close-ups of pockmarked faces that reminded me of Frank Miller’s work in Sin City when Piotr’s motivation is at his purest: killing the scumbags who murdered his son. Loughridge is a true palette maestro.
Three issues in, and Steve Orlando and Garry Brown have barely scratched the surface of the criminal underworld that runs the oil town of Blackstone, such as PetroPinnacle, the less corporate and more anarchist Meshe Adam, and not super well defined Prava plus the ordinary dock workers and small shop and stand owners that Piotr has sort of become a folk hero to. However, because of its singular focus on Piotr, Crude #3 isn’t bogged down by this “lore” and instead of exposition, we get earthy conversations, street fights, and light stalking of big wigs, who spout corporate, motivational bullshit to workers that experience things on a daily basis that they would never dream of. Piotr is like the protagonist of a good, open world video game: he’s competent at the whole violent thing, agreeable in day to day interactions, and has deep, emotional pain that keeps him sympathetic. Plus he has a whole dark streak from his days as an assassin that could easily come to the forefront thanks to the concluding incidents of this issue and also pops up later on when he starts wrecking a man’s apartment and putting heads through walls just to get a clue for her son’s demise. Brown’s rough speed lines help accentuate the violence in these situations.
Crude #3 has plenty of knock your teeth out and kick mud in your face action, dangerous situations, and emotional turmoil as Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, and Lee Loughridge place Piotr on a hopeless quest for vengeance. For fans of Orlando’s previous work, Crude is more Virgil than JLA and has an added layer of moral uncertainty to go with Loughridge’s fiery, hazy, and ever shifting color palette.
Story: Steve Orlando Art: Garry Brown
Colors: Lee Loughridge Letters: Thomas Mauer
Story: 8.8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review