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Friday, May 10, 2013

My Week in Comics: Chin Music #1

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term chin music refers to 'idle or foolish talk', convincing myself that this isn't a Shawn Michaels bio-comic.

But after reading Chin Music #1, I was actually hoping it was.

Chin Music is a collaboration between Steve Niles (creator of the hit horror comic 30 Days of Night) and Tony Harris (artist of the Eisner Award-winning comic Ex Machina). Coming from a place full of creepy creatures of the night, Niles is no stranger to the macabre and mysterious, and I was pumped when I first saw the preview pages. The Roaring 20's is my favorite era in history, and the promise of mobsters, monsters and mystery were too much for me to resist.

But there is such a thing as too much mystery, and it hurts Chin Music #1 more than it helps. For starters, Niles opts to let Harris' art tell most of the story, which is fine since Harris' art is gorgeous, but when you sacrifice clarity for beauty, that's when it all goes to heck. Scenes jump from one place to another without a mention of where (or even when!) it is, and characters appear with nary an explanation. At one point, I mistook the guy in the first few pages with another dude a couple of pages in because they were both wearing vests and fedoras!

I'm not asking for Expositionville, but throwing a little line in on who's who (at the very least!) would've helped loads. My head is still reeling, and I've read and reread this like 3 times already.

The art by Tony Harris will probably be the reason you stick with this. The former Ex Machina artist pulls off some amazing and ingenious feats of visual gymnastics, including tying the story's Roaring 20's setting into its panels and layouts and turning the entire book into this love letter to Art Deco. I love crazy ideas like that! Not to mention his art style here is less photo-referenced-looking and more freestyle, which I really dug more than the story itself.

I've said it before...a good first issue should blow you away right out the gate with a one-two punch of story and art that will leave you foaming at the mouth and wanting more of it. Chin Music #1, as gorgeous as it is, doesn't really have much to sink my teeth into, and that's too bad. Here's hoping the next issue is juicier. As it is, this gets a 3 out of 5. Stay for the art, and hope the second issue gives the idea justice.

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