The Chill is the newest offering, written by Jason Starr and illustrated by Mick Bertilorenzi. Those expecting a straightforward noir thriller will either be pleasantly surprised or promptly disappointed to realize that The Chill isn’t quite what it’s made out to be.
Though The Chill is still rooted firmly in the traditional detective story, there’s a much bigger supernatural element in play. The book opens in Ireland for a quick setup before shifting to present-day New York City and the sacrificial murder of a young club patron. Arlana is able to take the form of any man’s perfect woman, then seduces her victims and freezes them during sex (hence the “chill”); her father then kills them in accordance to their ritualistic beliefs. Arlana’s first unintentional victim survived years ago and has been hiding in the dark bars of New York City ever since. He sees Arlana, realizes what’s going on and tries to stop it. Of course, as he tries to explain this to the police, he becomes the suspect instead.
Starr makes an admirable jump from prose to comics, but needs a little more practice. It’s clear that he would love to flesh out all of the characters and small details with densely written passages, but struggles with the limitations. He avoids expository narrative boxes in favor of only dialogue, and that’s where things get tricky. The plot is so detailed and the history so grand that Starr has trouble fitting everything in, and some scenes become nothing more than information dumps.
There’s an unwritten guideline in comics that 30 words per panel is the maximum; otherwise, the images get bogged down in prose and lose their effectiveness. Starr loves his dialogue, which is wellcrafted but often it takes precedence over the art. It leaves you wondering why he felt this story needed to be a comic, as opposed to short fiction.
Bertilorenzi is a new name, but certainly makes his mark on this book. His lines are clean, his characters all have distinct differences and his action scenes are well planned and never sloppy. It’s solid work, but if he were given a regular gig and the opportunity to develop a close relationship with a writer, it would improve greatly.
The packaging and description may hold true to the old pulp sensibilities, and Starr makes a great effort, but in the end The Chill misses
the mark: too many rushed scenes, characters who disappear for pages on
end and too much comic-book sex. Bertilorenzi is a talented artist, but
at times it feels like he’s just drawing a bad late-night Cinemax movie
in cartoon form. Luckily, the next few entries in the Vertigo Crime
line are from seasoned veterans of the comic industry. Hopefully,
they’ll be able to do the line the justice it deserves.
Jason Starr & Mick Bertilorenzi
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