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Kickback

Written and illustrated by David Lloyd
Dark Horse Books
96 pages, $12.95
ISBN-10: 1593076592
ISBN-13: 9781593076597

 

A typically ominous sequence from Kickback, ©2008 David Lloyd.

 

In David Lloyd's new crime thriller Kickback, Joe Canelli is a cop on the take, just like every other cop in Franklin City. Like the others, he depends upon a certain balance of power between the police and the city's various criminal factions in order to maintain the status quo. When a gangleader named Zed is found murdered along with most of his gang, word reaches the street that the hit was made by cops, and suddenly Franklin City's fragile peace explodes into chaos.

Lloyd is uniquely suited to telling a story like this. His art is moody and evocative, composed of shadows as much as shapes, and his ability to frame an image for dramatic effect is second to none. Alan Moore took full advantage of Lloyd's skill set when he illustrated the dystopian thriller V for Vendetta, but as Kickback effectively demonstrates, Lloyd can pull it off quite nicely even without the direction of fancy, critically acclaimed writers, thank-you-very-much.

Indeed, it's Lloyd's visual storytelling that puts Kickback above your typical genre thriller. The story itself is typical crime-noir fare — if you haven't figured out from how high up the criminal status-quo dominoes were toppled by a third of the way through this book, than you probably haven't spent a lot of time with such stories to begin with — but the artist's seemingly effortless ability to create clever visual shorthand for emotional effect sucks the reader into Canelli's frequently brutal world. It's mostly a matter of style over substance, but style is often more than enough to make thrillers thrilling by itself (see also: Frank Miller). And David Lloyd has style to spare.

It would be nice to see Lloyd apply his considerable talent to richer, more substantive stories, of course, but even fairly empty calories can make for enjoyable junk food if assembled with flavor in mind — and Kickback is nothing if not a tasty, guilty pleasure.

 

This essay appeared on the then-website of The Comics Journal sometime between 2006 and 2008.

 

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