By: Viktor Kalvachev & Kosta Yanev (story), Andrew Osborne (script) & Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox & Paul Maybury (art)

The Story: Russian gangsters, B-list movie stars and double crosses….

What’s Good: Part of what makes Blue Estate fun is that it has such a different air about it than your typical crime story.  Usually when you say the words “Russian gangster” you think you’re going to get something very gritty (like the movie Eastern Promises or the OGN Luna Park).  But Blue Estate is fun and hip.  There is a particularly graphic scene in this issue where a guy gets ground into dog food (literally) and even though it is gross, you never look away.  You’re more inspired to laugh, “Oh!  Ha ha!  He got ground up into dog food!  Look!  There’s even a little doggie drawn on the side of the can!  Ha ha!”

We need more fresh concepts in comics, and while comics like Criminal are certainly enjoyable as hell…it’s nice to be able to laugh when reading a crime story too and Blue Estate is providing that.

The art is incredibly important to Blue Estate because the art is really selling the light-hearted and hip air about the story.  Going back to the Criminal comparison, you could probably give this script to Sean Phillips and actually get an issue of Criminal with all the noir and grit that Criminal promises.  So, it is a real artistic achievement that this issue and series have the fun, bouncy air that they do.  All of the characters are drawn in a slightly cartoony style that allows the artist to over-emphasize things to better sell a scene.  It is also really impressive how well integrated the multiple artists are.  With the exception of the final two pages, it is really hard to tell which parts Toby Cypress did and which parts were drawn by Nathan Fox.

What’s Not So Good: I am really enjoying this series and I love all of the characters, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what the major story is about.  That isn’t necessarily a tragic flaw at this point in the series and this issue felt like it was tying that major story together.  But readers who care only about story and get annoyed when reviewers start saying nice things about the artistic use of dot overlay and the other cool visual elements– Well, those types of readers will probably enjoy it less than I did.

Minor critique: There were also some elements of the lettering that just didn’t quite work.  In a bunch of places, the word balloons have very long tails on them and this allows them to be placed such that they don’t cover any of the art, but not really where they need to be in the panel.  One example is a panel with two men walking up a stairway.  The panel is shown from the side so that you can see the side of the staircase taking up about 1/3 of the panel.  The word balloon is placed on the side of the staircase with a long tail pointing to the character.  This is good because the word balloon doesn’t cover the characters, BUT part of the point of word balloons is to drag the reader’s eyes around the panel and I don’t think we needed to have our eyes directed towards the side of the staircase.  This is a very minor complaint and most of the lettering in the comic is done very nicely, but these long tails allow a letterer to stick balloons in places where there are out-of-the-way instead of where they need to be.

Conclusion: Hip, fun and fresh.  A very different look at a Russian crime story with great art.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell

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