by Peter Milligan (writer), Davide Gianfelice (art), Patricia Mulvihill (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

The Story: Milligan introduces us to the world of Greek Street and its various characters.  A mother dies, a body washes up, and two killers are on the loose, one a man and one a monster.

What’s Good: The concept actually doesn’t hit you as hard in the face as you think it would. Rather, this comic just comes across as a gritty new crime comic from Vertigo with a bizarre, almost Morrison-esque surrealism to spice things up. Make no mistake, this isn’t meat and potatoes stuff; it is a smart book, it’s just not overly boastful of its classical base nor is it hopelessly lost in academia.  It’s a balance that I quite enjoy and it makes the book a lot more approachable than one might expect. That said, the mythological element definitely makes it an interesting book, as it bends reality, constantly giving you the feeling that there’s something lurking behind the curtain of realism, something monstrous, magical, or both beneath the hard-boiled surface of strippers and gangsters.

Milligan quickly establishes his Greek Street as a savage, nasty world. Simply put, this book is all about the recurring nature of human brutality.  For this reason, modern crime blends seamlessly with myths that are thousands of years old. It is when the book is at its most brutal that it mostly draws upon its mythological base. In his first issue, Milligan is well on his way to proving his point, with father/mob boss carving up the face of his son, calling forth the very primitivism and ancient pantheism one would think to be long gone.

Art-wise, readers of Northlanders know what to expect here. Gianfelice has an inviting, almost carefree style that carries a grotesque, dark, and ugly tone. It’s solid work all around and a good fit for this book. I especially like his character design of the “insane/ visionary” Sandra. His work on her has me looking forward to seeing what other character designs he has in store.

What’s Not-So-Good: This is a really strange issue in that the first third of it is actually pretty underwhelming. Thankfully, this issue is 30 pages, so I still had another standard comic’s worth of material to go through. That said, for those first ten pages, it’s as though Milligan actually struggles to get this unique book started, as if he isn’t quite comfortable with his own series yet. The textbox narration is scattershot and hard to follow. These first pages also see the death of a character’s mother after he sleeps with her. It’s a hard sequence to pull off and Milligan doesn’t really manage it. Oedipus didn’t KNOW he was sleeping with his mother, but this character does, and Milligan isn’t able to provide a believable explanation. In fact, between this and the aimless textboxes (which are in this character’s voice), I started to wonder if the guy was mentally handicapped.

What’s particularly awful though is the manner in which the mother’s death is depicted. The cause and the sequence are both so ludicrous and so unlikely that it borders on slapstick comedy. Furthermore, the son’s painful reaction is more laughable than excruciating.

Conclusion: A first issue that sees its writer getting comfortable with his new book, this is a worthy addition to the Vertigo crime lineage.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans