Posted on February 10, 2010 by Jason Thorson
Available at DriveThruComics.com
Writer Jason Becker and artist Jon Rea are back with the second twisted issue of their series Killing Pickman. Slower paced and more convoluted than issue 1, this issue dives deeper into the origins of Dick Pickman’s monstrous deeds.
As Detective Zhu makes his way to Herbert West Memorial Hospital to finish the job he started in issue one, the act of killing Pickman, Mr. Pickman waxes insane to a hospital psychologist about his transformation into a malicious child killer. When Zhu arrives outside the door to Pickman’s room, gun in hand, he’s confronted by Detective Raimi. Flash forward two months and we find out that this case hasn’t been very kind to those involved with investigating and cleaning out the Pickman house. Detective Zhu is the only one who understands the literally monstrous nature of the case and he has a plan, but can he pull it off while also looking out for the best interests of his wife and their child?
Becker’s story hit the ground running in issue one. I’m talking Olympic-level-sprinting. It gained momentum immediately which it sustained throughout by decidedly avoiding exposition. Because there was such a lack of back story in issue one it comes as no surprise that issue two is almost entirely comprised of exposition. Having now had the opportunity to explore both approaches, it’s clear that this series would be best served striking a balance between the two. Becker’s writing is just as interesting, but plotting comes to a screeching halt this issue.
Killing Pickman is chock full of references to the great horror flicks of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Becker’s reverence for those stories comes through in his writing. Like those films do so well, Becker establishes an ominous tone in which dread is thick enough to hack up with a machete and a collision course with that which is evil, twisted, and horrible is inevitable. This inevitability pushes us through his world with our nerves scraped raw so that the resulting tension is palpable, even when there isn’t much happening.
Rea’s artwork is multifaceted and unique. Once again, he composes pages that visually represent the noire tone of the story as well as the derangement of the story’s subject matter. He tends to blur the lines, both figuratively and literally, that separate the panels from the pages, the illustrations from the text, and in some cases the pages from reality. There are panels that are drawn to appear as if they are taped onto the page and there are pages that are drawn as if the panels are mounted on the game of Sudoku being played by the character represented in the panels.
The most interesting element of the artwork is the diagrams, notes, and quotes found throughout that provide a literal subtext to the already complex and multi-layered story. Some of these are funny, some of these are deranged, and all of them are enlightening. By blurring the lines between written elements and graphic elements, story and reality, writer and reader, and artwork and media Rea provides readers a creatively meta-fictional and fully immersive experience.
Killing Pickman issue 2 is another successful example of the quality indie storytellers and artists can attain. This issue has a little less going for it with regard to plot and pace than its predecessor does, but it’s well-written, well-drawn and well-executed nonetheless. I hear that the series will continue this summer, which is awesome because Jason Becker, Jon Rea, and the rest of their crew at Archaia Studio Press have a potential blockbuster on their hands.
Review by Jason Thorson