By: Jason LaTour (writer), Chris Brunner (artist) and Rico Renzi (colors)

The Story: The subtitle says it all: A “Southern Crime Romance”.

What’s Good: What a welcome surprise this was.  This is really the kind of comic that makes you want to scour the back of Previews to find hidden gems because, outside of Criminal, you simply won’t find outstanding crime comics at Marvel or DC.

The action all takes place in and around a roadside diner.  It really isn’t possible to spoil the plot because we really don’t know what is going on yet, but we spend this first issue just meeting the characters.  There’s the hot waitress that you see on the cover, some down on his luck criminal loitering in the parking lot, his ex-girlfriend and the typical drunk thugs hanging out at the bar.  Latour paces the storytelling very nicely and by the end of the issue, you feel like you have a pretty good handle on who these characters are even if you don’t really know what they’re up to.

Along the way, everything goes to hell in a hand-basket and we get a nasty, violent battle royale in the diner that doesn’t pull any punches.  Flipping back through those pages as I type this, that whole scene is just raw as hell.  There’s no stylized material arts or anyone being a badass, it’s just a nasty barroom brawl and the creators completely sell the realism of it all.

The art is really something.  The first thing that grabs you is how nicely the issue is colored.  Why more colorists can’t work with a flatter style of coloring is beyond me because this issue is simply beautiful!  What sets it apart is that the coloring is more concerned with establishing mood than trying to add depth and shading to the scene.  And, that’s fine because Brunner’s linework has plenty of depth and is vibrant as hell.  You can always tell what the characters are thinking, feeling and doing.  For some reason, this issue reminded me of the outstanding work that Greg Tochini did in Last Days of American Crime.  Brunner’s characters are a lot tighter and more defined than Tochini’s, but the layouts, sense of style and raw power of the art is pretty similar.  If you liked LDoAC, you’ll really like Loose Ends.  This issue is a real visual “Wow”!

Also, it is a lovely comic from a printing standpoint: Nice heavy paper with all the colors printing true as can be.  It is also slightly oversized and the artists do use that extra space to good effect.  I have a feeling this comic wouldn’t look nearly as nice printed on that crappy paper that Marvel uses.

What’s Not So Good: Really minor stuff…  I don’t mind a story unfolding as I go along, but I wouldn’t have minded a slightly better idea of the plot by the end of this issue.  It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the issue, but I finished and kinda felt like there should have been one more page that established the bigger story.

Even though I do like the artistic effect of the oversized format, I do groan a little bit at having to deal with an oddball sized issue.  It won’t fit in my bags and boards and is going to present all kinds of problems from a comic binding standpoint.  But, I can deal with the oversized format as long as the artists use the extra space well.

Conclusion: Wow, what a great issue!  We need more crime comics, especially when they can be as gritty and raw as this.  All fans of crime comics should track this down asap and make sure to pre-order future issues.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell

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