by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Michael Avon Oeming (Artist), Taki Soma (colorist)

The Story: What if the mobs never waned in influence? What if they just got bigger?

The Review: This is a fascinating high concept for a crime comic. As much as I have always adored Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal book, there is something inherently awesome in seeing an alternate world in which the mobs never lost their footing in America. This issue succeeds in building up this world in a very organic manner that never steps on the toes of the story that it is trying to tell as we follow Valentine Gallo through his initiation into the ‘family’.

Bendis introduces a lot of characters here who feel new and fresh and yet instantly familiar; the mysterious female accomplice, the joker of a cousin, and the slightly haunted mother. All of these characters felt incredibly real upon reading and helped to sell the believability of this world. The dynamic between Valentine and Jagger Rose is interesting in and of itself as the latter attempts to diffuse any sexual tension from their partnership early on in a hilarious scene. It seems clear that despite being a made man that Valentine is somewhat emotionally and sexually stunted, an early scene shows him in bed with two women looking terribly confused and the relationship established with Jagger shows us that Valentine is not quite the man he tries to carry himself as.

Further muddying Valentine’s self-image is the killer reveal at the end of this issue when our protagonist discovers that his entire existence has been something of a lie, this was a very unexpected twist and puts the character between a rock and a hard place, throwing up questions of identity and loyalty. Bendis and his artists have established a firm foundation for this series moving forward with a likeable, interesting cast and a fantastic, dramatic hook that will keep people coming back for subsequent issues.

Oeming’s art in this issue is fantastic, you can tell that the artist has made some subtle changes to his art style for this series, looking even more like animation cells than ever and still employing large swaths of black, Oeming is on top form with this début issue.Likewise, there is a lot of innovation occurring with Taki Soma’s colouring approach to be found within these pages too, upon first reading I found the colouring extremely jarring, there isn’t a single panel of what you would call naturalistic coloring in this issue. That said, upon reading again for this review I came to considerably appreciate the stylistic choices she was making. The colour contrasts really do make the characters pop off of the page and ably draws the reader’s eye around the page, revealing how well constructed the art in this book is.

The digital edition of this comic is an absolute monster filled with the entire script for the first issue as well as a sketchbook section which should be a huge draw to any fans who are process nuts. It’s a great little extra that makes this reader feel that I certainly got my moneys worth. This is a brilliant debut issue from a creative team that works as a well oiled machine, it should be on everyone’s reading list whether you’re a fan of the crime genre or just comics in general.

Grade: A