By: Viktor Kalvachev & Kosta Yanev (story), Andrew Osborne (script), Kalvachev, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Dave Johnson, Peter Nguyen & Kieran (art) and Kalvachev (art director)

The Story: It’s hard to describe in a single sentence – it’s weird things happening to a bunch of gangsters.

A Few Things:

1.  Art direction is amazing. – Blue Estate breaks the “rules.”  Usually when you see SIX artists credited for a comic, it means the art will be a hot mess.  Why?  With the typical comic, six artists means that Big Name Artist didn’t make his deadlines and the editor brought in a bunch of scrub artists to ship the comic on time.  That is NOT what happens with Blue Estate.  It’s almost like series creator Kalvachev knew it would be hard to get an A-list artist to commit to doing a monthly, creator-owned comic book…. but he figured he could always get several A-listers to draw 2-3 pages a month.  Thus, every month Blue Estate features this eclectic cast of artists, just kinda jamming on a comic.  The effect is great.  It’s almost like an anthology comic (in a way).  I just love the rotating cast of artists because it gives us a chance to see someone like Dave Johnson doing interior pages.  When was the last time Johnson did interior pages?

What keeps it from being a disjointed mess is that Kalvachev (a) surely runs a pretty tight ship from a project management standpoint and (b) knits everything together with the coloring.

2. Story winds around in a fun way. – The story is simply fun.  The essence of the story is: dumb gangsters trying to kill or screw-over each other.  But all the characters are a little too dumb to execute their plans, so they keep ending up in ridiculous situations.  For example, in this issue one character needs to sell a house ASAP to make money (to pay off some gangsters).  The good news is that he has a cash buyer.  The bad news is that he’s been put in charge of also transporting another gangster’s race horse to the race track.  If he doesn’t come up with the money, he’s dead.  If the horse doesn’t get to the track….he’s dead.  So, he goes to get the money and recruits a couple of dreadlocked stoners he meets to drive the horse to the track for him in their VW minibus where they proceed to get the horse STONED.  Surely, next issue he’ll have to explain why the horse was stoned.  What’s wonderful is seeing how many different plot threads are spinning at once.  It’s like watching a guy juggle 10 balls and just when you think it can’t possibly get crazier, he adds a couple more balls to the mix.  It’s insane, but in a good way.

3. Great cover (again). – Ironic that I mentioned Dave Johnson doing interior pages above because we all know that Johnson is the current king of cover artists.  For my money, Johnson has the championship belt for “Best Cover Artist”.  But, he’s going to have some competition in coming years from Kalvachev if that’s something Kalvachev wants to pursue.  Every month Kalvachev’s covers on this series are a mixture of beautiful, cool and topical.  I’m not sure that the sexy Russian swimmer in the martini glass has anything to do with the story (except for the Russian part)….she’s just a cool, sexy woman.  But, she’s holding a marijuana leaf and there’s a sniper rifle in the martini too and both of those are elements of this issue’s story.  Very well done!

Conclusion: This is a really hard comic to review every month because the story kinda defies description; there aren’t “major events” to discuss or worry about spoiling.  The art is tough to review too.  While all the art is wonderful, it’s hard to drill down on an artist when each guy is only doing 2-3 pages.  But…. if you’re not reading this, you’re missing out.  Just the craft in this comic is incredible and it makes you angry that more comics can’t exhibit this type of professionalism.  I can’t decide if Kalvachev is the next great cover artist or the next great managing editor.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell

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