Dead Rabbit #1 breathes new life into the crime-noir comic scene with the hard-hitting story of Martin, a.k.a. Dead Rabbit, a retired notorious Boston outlaw who now has to get back in the game.
Taking a look at the darker side of humanity, Dead Rabbit #1 by Gerry Duggan and John McCrea highlights the criminal side of classic crime stories and quickly becomes a series you’ll want to stick with for its down-to-earth dialogue, fascinating art, and gripping story that ultimately steal your heart.
The comic opens with a newscast recounting the exploits of the infamous criminal, Dead Rabbit, on the current eve of his last sighting in 1997, when he “disappeared.” Duggan uses this wonderfully to his advantage, pausing on little moments of Bostonians of all kinds reacting to the program to give us a feel for Martin’s image.
We quickly learn how controversial Dead Rabbit is. He’s akin to a Robin Hood figure just with less class and less philanthropy, but one thing is for certain though: even years after his retirement, Dead Rabbit is still firmly in the minds (both of friends and foes) of his city.
We cut to Martin’s house and see he now lives the quiet life with his former partner in crime and now wife, Megan. Having run out of the cash he had stored up over his criminal career, Martin finds himself working (though secretly casing) a local supermarket as a customer greeter.
And if you know anything about the supermarket industry, this is the job usually given to old people.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”
Back At It Again…
But as chance would have it, Martin’s path crosses with that of a rookie murder whom he notices immediately. Spurred to action, Martin suits up as the Dead Rabbit once again to serve up some vigilante justice on the man and ends up finding a much more horrid sight than imagined.
After walking out of that nightmare, Martin finds himself in a nightmare of a different kind at home when he must confront Megan with the truth about his job and resurgence in criminal activity (all of which he hid from her). Unfortunately, the stress of this revelation cases Megan to have a seizure. To make matters worse, all of Dead Rabbit’s recent activity draws the attention of Mr. Digirolamo, a drug-lord Dead Rabbit made as an enemy in his heyday. This adversary is looking to find Martin and make him pay for the money he stole with his life!
True to Duggan’s caliber, we are given roaring five-act structure in Dead Rabbit #1: a full story with a cliffhanger. Duggan delivers what he promises in this initial issue but masterfully leaves the reader wanting more.
Beginning at the cover of the comic, the visuals are striking. In fact, it hits you as hard as I imagine Dead Rabbit’s nasty right hook does.
The cover by John McCrea is an amazing shot of Dead Rabbit using a reduced color palette, green and black with accents of red and yellow, making the whole thing pop. There’s no way you can miss this book on the shelves of your local comic store. McCrea brings a style of hard brush strokes to the book. This paired with expert and explicit color choices by Mike Spicer and premiere lettering by Joe Sabino make for a gripping read.
Distinct, unique character designs are diffused throughout the book. In a world so richly populated, no two characters look the same, and everyone looks appropriate for the roles they are portraying (e.g. a supermarket employee, a drug lord, etc.). One of the best parts of the book is Dead Rabbit’s sweet costume. The design is a fun mix of a traditional high-class criminal (complete with suit and tie) and a striking vigilante.
Dead Rabbit’s earthy tone veneer is accented with crimson “x” eyes that can’t help but leave you with the lingering impression of
“Man, that’s cool.”
Speaking Through Style & Color
To that point, the coloring of all of the characters and the scenery as well is fantastic. Even in the darkest thematic moments of the issue, the colors are well-balanced. McCrea uses deep shadows thoroughly to add weight to scenes of extreme tension.
One could argue the shadows a bit too rough, but seeing as this is a crime story, this may very well be a deliberate design choice. In truth, there is little to fault with this hard-hitting, hard-boiled style.
Further evidence of this is the incredible detail put into every panel. No matter the place or time in the story, McCrea and Spicer leave nothing half-done. Each panel flows, especially with the use of negative space in the layout. As for the dynamism, it’s off the charts.
McCrea and Spicer have a way of combining action lines, poses, and lighting to imply multiple movements in one panel, a feat seen stronger here than in many other comparative comics. You feel every blow in every fight scene. You ebb and flow with the combatants.
The comic is truly a treat to engage with.
Coming In Loud & Clear
The present tense narration featured throughout Dead Rabbit #1 is distinctly what gives the book that crime-noir feel, but the pleasant twist is that the narrator is a criminal rather than a private investigator or detective. Making Dead Rabbit a criminal with a code is an excellent choice on Duggan’s part. Dead Rabbit becomes instantly more endearing once we see he has rules for himself and a sense of morality, albeit twisted. This helps us to relate to the man’s motives even when his actions are wrong.
The voice of most of the characters in the book has a natural lower-to-middle class way of speaking. This is the probable demographic for a criminal, so all the dialogue sounds natural. In addition, the conversations are all well paced, no beat is lingered on for too long.
Don’t Sleep On Dead Rabbit #1
If you like crime stories, this is one you need to pick up. Dead Rabbit #1 is an incredibly refreshing entry into the crime genre; it’s just ironic it took a retired robber’s story to birth something so wonderfully new in this field.
We at The Daily Fandom are looking forward to the rest of what Gerry Duggan, John McCrea, Mike Spicer, and Joe Sabino have in store for the dark and enticing future of Dead Rabbit.
If you want a fresh comic crime-noir from the perspective of a man from the other side of the tracks, this is it! Highly recommend.