Pullbox Reviews: The Grave, chapter 1 – Hard Hitting, Fast Shooting, revenge noir…

A meeting in the middle of the night…

Shady men, making shady deals…

Violence ensues… a lot.

The Grave establishes its Truth pretty early on. Set in 1987 (hey, Class of ’87, represent!), in an isolated town called Denton City, David Taylor’s story of rough justice has a lot of borrowed elements. What’s wholly its own is the obvious love Taylor has for the crime noir revenge story he’s settled on as his genre of choice.

All of the classic elements are present and accounted for. We have the mystery man, coming to town in the middle of the night… a man with a past, and hopefully a future. He meets Annette, who works at a local greasy spoon attached to a “no tell motel”, and despite a life of hard knocks she still has a heart of gold. Enter Annette’s ex-husband, who happens to be one of the aforementioned “shady men”. He’s got dirty business to attend to and he ain’t taking no lip from nobody. The conflict is inevitable and its outcome is certain. Where Taylor takes it from there is what’s up in the air, but the body count promises to be impressive… at least in its audacity if not in numbers. I mean, by the end of the first chapter we’re already talking about three fistfights (one admittedly brief), two shootings, and a body stuffed in the trunk of a car.

David Taylor first hit my radar when his online comic Her hit my email (my review can be found here). It was a quick read, but had all of the twists of a much longer story. Based on that single entry, I was really looking forward to what Taylor could do in a longer format. The Grave is looking to fulfill that promise. As with Her, Taylor doesn’t feel the need to dole out information too fast… if at all. All we know about the mystery man by the end of chapter one is that he’s traveling from a funeral to some destination, and he winds up in Denton City- aka: The Dent. He’s charming, and not at all hesitant to throw blows to address a wrong. That’s just about it, and much of that info is picked up through action over exposition. In writing, the concept of “show, don’t tell” is one of the more difficult things to stick with. The writer- in this case, David Taylor- knows so much about his characters and the story he wants to tell, and he’s so excited to share it with the reader that the urge is to put it all out there as fast as he can. Resisting that impulse is what I consider the mark of good writing, allowing the reader to pick up on the details as they go so they can take a more personal investment in what’s happening on the page.

Show, don’t tell also applies to storytelling when a writer is able to step back and let the artist handle some of the heavy lifting. Comicbooks are a visual medium, and it always works well if the illustrations are allowed to take center stage once in a while, without excessive dialogue balloons and text boxes. That level of cooperation requires trust between creators, and what better way to establish that trust than by handling the writing AND the artwork?

Assuming a writer can also draw, I guess.

No worries, folks, David Taylor can in fact draw. His style has a kind of bare bones look to it, perfectly suited to the black and white format he’s working in. The detail is there, but he’s not putting so much on the page that it creates a jumble of lines, without color working to differentiate one from another. Also, Taylor’s characters look like they could be real people… not so much in that his form is what you’d think of as photorealistic, but there are no over exaggerated physiques or perfectly symmetrical features. It’s a more understated character design that works out very well for the subject matter. Finally, I’m the most impressed with Taylor’s handling of action. There’s a fight scene in this issue that has all of the dynamic application of an MMA bout, with each panel moving into the next as one punch creates an opening for another. These are the kinds of visuals I really like to see in a book (I also happen to like MMA… purely as a spectator sport).

While the first chapter is available to read online, for free and in its entirety, readers have the chance to get their hands on a full print version in trade paperback form. The Grave’s Kickstarter campaign is in full swing, right now even as we speak, and he’s already reached full funding. That’s not slowing him down, though, as he’s now feverishly coming up with stretch goals- two of which have already been met.

Fans of Richard Stark’s Parker series of novels, or Payback if you’re more of a movie-goer, are going to want to give The Grave a look. Much like the drugs surely being peddled in Denton City, the first taste is free. After that, you’ve gotta pay for your fix… luckily it’s pretty darn reasonable, and David Taylor is offering a couple different formats (e-comic & print) for your reading pleasure, as well as a couple other perks to sweeten the deal. Honestly, he had me at “hello…”

The Grave’s final score: 9

Love the action on this page…
Cover for the trade paperback
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  1. Absolutely loved ‘Her’ and enjoying this first chapter of ‘The Grave’ though this isn’t my usual format.

    Atmosphere, style, and yeah I agree with the reveiwer that letting us discover the characters our selves rather than having it all thrown at us is a great reader experience.

    Wish you success and look forward to more!

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