Archive for Noir

[Comic Review] The Incredible Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizza Boy

Posted in Comic Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Photo Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

An obscure title to say the least, but well worth the search. I struggled to find it in store locally, and although my efforts weren’t in vain, this title is easily picked up online, as is the follow up coming soon (slated for March of 2014).

The Adventures of Dog Mendonca and Pizza Boy was originally a comic released in Portugal and from what I understand gathered quite the following. This particular version is obviously the english translation and released via Dark Horse Comics.

The story begins with a little foreshadowing. One of the core characters, Eurico (who will be addressed as Pizza Boy from here on out) is late for work…delivering pizza. Out on a run, his scooter is stolen by what appear to be monsters. In a not-so-clever way, his path leads him to one Dog Mendonca, occult investigator, and is companion, a demon named Pazuul. Keep in mind Pazuul is possessing the body of a young girl.

Mendonca’s investigation and efforts in tracking down Pizza Boy’s missing scooter leads them on quite an adventure (as the title suggests). Gargoyles, vampire and Nazi zombies complete the cast of characters found throughout this title. Although pretty far-fetched and a little on the loosey-goosey side, the read is fun. If you don’t look too deep, the noir and pulp come across plenty. It’s cheesy and rather tongue in cheek, as it gives recognition and plenty of name drops from the creator’s influences and favorites.

The art is also amazing. A little dark in some places, but beautiful nonetheless. It lends to the overall feel of the book, and although at times the detail is such it is hard to discern every nook and cranny of the panel in the dark pages, what the eye can pick up is astonishing. Juan Cavia’s artwork was new to me prior to this title. And, it might be due to the combination of Santiago Villa’s colors, but I love it. Cavia expresses plenty in his panels, specifically in the facial expressions of his characters.

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[Book Review] The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

I stumbled upon the publishing company known as Hard Case Crime roughly a year ago. Ever since, I’ve ordered/found several titles that I enjoy. The company has an artist collection both new and established, some alive and other deceased. Titles range from re-prints to new and exclusive. Whatever the case may be, I haven’t found a title yet that I’ve read and didn’t enjoy!

The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain is one I recently finished. A quick and pleasant read ringing in at only 217 pages. The story revolves around the main character named Matt Cordell, who just happens to be a washed up private investigator with an alcohol problem. He has seen better days…but none of them recently. He gets wrapped up in an old-fashioned who-done-it via an acquaintance from the old neighborhood in New York to look into a small problem of register theft. However, it doesn’t take long for the character and the story to spiral out of control and into the realm of homicide and classic would-be celebrity greed.

We follow along with the character as he delves into his unofficial investigation, through lies, betrayal and physical punishment. This title screams noir. A little bit of mystery with a little bit of cheese, and the end result is a pulp fiction read I found quite enjoyable. Although nothing comes from the left field, the story had more than enough to keep me interested and turning the pages. McBain managed to do wonders in allowing the jazz scene of the era to ooze from within. Many of the scenes in the book have that same flavor and lend to making this a strong, if short, title.

[RPG Review] Savage Worlds & Deadlands: Noir

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Before I delve too deep into Deadlands: Noir, I wanted to bring up the topic of Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds generic setting/ruleset.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

I have had the Savage Worlds core rules in my possession for quite some time, as it was given to me as a gift along with their Realm of Cthulhu release. I had flipped through it, and found myself slightly confused. Not because the rules themselves are that confusing, but because they were rather simple. Savage Worlds is a ruleset that can literally be used in just about any setting you can imagine, from horror to science fiction to fantasy. Each setting they themselves have released adds a few tweaks to the rules to add some flavor, but in general, with one book you can run any form of RPG setting you have in mind.

Personally, I have played in or ran sessions using these rules that involve superheroes (which, with their Super Powers Companion, makes things rather dynamic and open) and adventures in the Weird West (in the form of their Deadlands: Reloaded campaign setting). All of which, once a basic understanding of the rules had been had, were great sessions. Adults as well as younger players can have fun while not getting bogged down with overly complicated rules. Each session is, essentially, what the Game Master makes of it. Honestly, you can be as simple, rules light as you want or you can tweak things to make them as dice-heavy as the gaming group likes.

Some rules can be flaky, as is the case with the card-based initiative…but even that can be bypassed if you truly do not care for it (they have a dice-based alternative). I was even in that boat, before I delved into Deadlands. What’s more wild west than drawing an ace of spades of a joker? After that, I was in love with it. After being exposed to this method of random initiative in other formats, I had no problems using it in my own Superheroes sessions and it didn’t detract from the feeling at all. In fact, the gaming group seems to love it. That, combined with their Action Deck, the group had a blast and a little something else up their sleeve for when they needed it.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

This brings me to one of the company’s more recent releases, their Deadlands: Noir setting. Originally, I caught wind of this release as a Kickstarter sometime last year. I’ve always been a sucker for that noir, or pulp, feel in just about anything, whether movies and television, or books and comics. So, after watching their action comics based around the setting I was hooked and waited rather impatiently for when the title was actually released. However, like everything, it was lost in the shuffle due to life and work. But, this holiday season I was doing some digging for gifts and ran across it once more, this time in hardcopy. I ordered it for myself, and read through it from cover to cover the same day. It brings Deadlands and the setting’s lore into the 1930s. New Orleans in the 1930s, to be exact (although locales are expanded on in the Companion release). Same dark, Weird History flavor but instead of horses and dusty western adventure it adds seedy alleyways and private detectives into the mix.

From a fluff standpoint, I feel Pinnacle did a great job in updating their lore and keeping things congruent with other Deadlands releases. They added some edges and hinderances more fitting to the era, and even adapted finances to reflect the impact of the great depression. The core book itself adds little in the way of rules themselves. Instead, it’s all about setting up the table for a bumped up timeline.

Thrilled that I had finally gotten into my hands the long awaited title release, I hopped on over to Pinnacle’s website and dug around on their store. Although there are several PDF releases (which is the norm it seems these days), I still feel that the title is heavily supported. A handful of adventures have already been released, as well as a couple noir-based dime novels. As an added bonus, if the Game Master plans on running anything within the confines of Deadlands: Noir‘s concept of 1935’s New Orleans, you have the added support of several map packs based in and around it.

All-in-all, a worthwhile purchase. If you’re already a fan of Deadlands, which has been around for quite some time, or pulp…or really, just into anything new with a solid grasp on their vision and feel, pick up this title.

[Book Review] False Negative by Joseph Koenig

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Anyone that has read this blog knows my infatuation with pulp and noir-style reads, whether they be in the form of novels of comics. Suspense-thrillers with gritty imagery has always won over my heart. So, when I heard about Hard Case Crime I took a look at their website. Sure enough…it was a plethora of books by various authors that had me from the get go. Their selection consists of noir, old and new, by some writers well-known within other genres.

FalseNegativeCoverMy initial head-first dive into their titles consisted of False Negative by Joseph Koenig. From cover to cover, Koenig has put together one of the more interesting reads I’ve gotten my hands on in quite some time. He was a great understanding of the genre and the time period his novel is placed, and as we follow along with his main character (named Adam Jordan), the seedy-side of Atlantic City comes alive.

The book is a legitimate page-turner and in general remains consistant until the end. The story involves a reporter that commits a serious foopah in the journalism industry and ends up getting the boot out onto the street. Having no where else to turn and no other talents, he ends up writing for a magazing dubbed Real Detective. Koenig has us following along as Jordan stumbles from story to story, always seeming to come back to the one case that haunts him, and as new murders ensue he can’t help but become involved.

For three-fourths of the novel, I was kept guessing who was behind the killings involved with the main storyline. With Koenig throwing in side-stories of Jordan earning a living, it kept me engrossed and turning the pages one after another. So much so that I sat aside several other books I was reading (I usually have 3-5 going at the same time) to focus on this one.

What can I say negative about this particular title? Not much. I felt the killer was revealed (even though not necessarily outright, but enough they were singled out quickly) too early. More attention to the main plot could have added to the ‘chew’ of this title. Keep in mind, there wasn’t a lack of main story…I just felt some of the skipping around might have taken away a bit here and there, and in some places had me scratching my head thinking I was missing a page or two between thumbing to the next. And lastly, the final two pages could have been removed entirely and the story ended with ‘Chapter 13.’

But honestly, no piece of work is perfect. What makes a piece of writing great can be in the eye and mind of those who read them. In my opinion, False Negative is well written over all, and what little it does lack is made up for in that need to keep turning the page. If the catalogue of Hard Case Crime is anywhere close to this (and with big names like Stephen King on the bill…) I should say this publishing company is going to be just what the doctor ordered for my noir and pulp fixation.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 Gingered Digits.

Verdict: Character Development (1/1), Climax (0.5/1), Entertainment (1/1), Plot (1/1), Story (1/1).