Writer: David Taylor
Artist: David Taylor
Inks: David Taylor
Letterer: David Taylor (noticing a pattern?)
Publisher: Take a guess…
Price: You can get a digital copy of Part 1 from dftaylor.art
Doing a bit of a double dip on this one—some of you may remember that Paul reviewed part one of The Grave, the self-published Payback-esque noir graphic novel by David Taylor a while back (as well as one of Taylor’s other pieces, Her!). Well, Taylor just released the full series in digital format in fulfillment of his recent Kickstarter campaign, and we at the Pullbox, ever supporters of indie culture, figured we’d provide an update.
The update is that David Taylor is a man who keeps his promises.
As in, all the promise that chapter one suggested is fulfilled in the four-part, 128-page tour de (a whole lotta) force.
Noir is a deceptively challenging genre to write and draw, as evidenced by the fact that not many have done it well. Frank Miller nailed it in Sin City; the late, great Darwyn Cooke offered the master-course on it with his interpretations of Donald Westlake’s Richard Stark Parker books; in literature, you’ve got the aforementioned Westlake and Dashiell Hammett. I’m sure there are a few more names out there, but precious few. Well, add David Taylor to that list.
You see, the thing about noir is that you have to do a lot more with a whole lot less. The writing, whether in novel or graphic form, has to be spare, bordering on the extreme; exposition and dialogue is kept to the bare minimum (or less). Atmosphere is everything. Even the artwork is all about shadow, and the suggestion of what’s there rather than what actually is. Here is where Taylor is particularly accomplished: he’s able to achieve, in what appears to be a simple, almost amateurish fashion (but I promise you—it absolutely, positively is not) a full and rich rendering of the entirety of “The Dent,” its environs and its players by offering only the necessary details, the requisite lines.
Case in point: I’m a motorcycle rider, have been for over a decade. At one point, the protagonist (in 128 pages, we never do get his name—see what I mean? SPARE!) swipes a “really nice bike,” which in a lot of books would either be a generic representation of a random Harley, or else a completely over-drawn-to-the-last-cooling-fin Count’s Custom. Taylor, though, gives us, indeed, a very nice bike, offering the one detail I, as a rider, need to see to know someone dolled up this baby, but made it a serious riding bike, not a showpiece: the handlebars. They’re clearly not stock, they’re utilitarian (not some ridiculous three-foot ape-hangers), they’re strong and powerful. And they’re a grand total of maybe six lines.
Entire pages go by with no words—no description (there isn’t any of that through the entire book), no dialogue, and very little in terms of art other than what’s happening and what’s absolutely necessary to support it.
As Paul mentioned in his review, Taylor is also a master of depicting action, and in particular, combat. I won’t beat a dead horse and repeat Paul’s review verbatim—but trust us both on this. Take a look. Again, with few lines, not even any color, he conveys the motion of intense combat effortlessly. He could’ve choreographed John Wick.
Now, part of what differentiates a run-of-the-mill, hard-boiled pulp writer (of which there have been many) from a good noir auteur is characterization and story. Let’s face it, part of why noir isn’t among the primary movie and literature genres is that there’s only so many Sam Spade, femme fatale or revenge-bent psychopath stories to be told; it’s a bit of a self-encapsulating style. And it’s not like you get to be George R.R. Martin, and spend hundreds of pages outlining what makes your little revenge tale different than all the rest.
Taylor, though, is able to make his characters interesting enough (and several even fairly woke, to his great credit), his particular revenge tale fresh enough to keep the reader engaged, even if the art wasn’t good enough to grab you in on its own. And it definitely is. So, you know…bonus.
The Grave is one of those books that, if you wanted to, you could blaze through pretty quickly: again, the story itself is fairly standard, and the dialogue sparse. But the nuance Taylor’s able to achieve, both in his writing and his art, deserves to be savored. I’m really excited to be getting a print copy of this one—I look forward to digesting it over and again some rainy November night. Then again, probably some rainy April night. Definitely a theme emerging there…
Anyway, you can gather a good glimpse at David Taylor’s full body of work via his website, dftaylor.art, which (unless he’s currently running a Kickstarter, which sadly, he currently is not) is the only place you can find his stuff (sorry, Amazon!). From the looks of it, he’ll soon be taking orders for physical copies of The Grave, and I’d bet his two other works, Her! and Decades, for those of you who didn’t clue in from Paul’s review and back the Grave Kickstarter (and shame on you if that’s the case!).
Review by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com