Dark Corridor #1 By Rich Tommaso
Overview: Dark Corridor is a new series from Rich Tommaso that functions as an umbrella title for him to tell different genre stories in a monthly format. The debut issue begins the Red Circle crime saga, named for the fictional city of Red Circle and the criminal network the stories revolve around. We are treated to two interconnected tales of chance, related to a crime scene at a local residence. Both stories showcase the deft hand of creator Tommaso, in both art and writing, and worked really well to pique my interest in the future of this title. I highly recommend giving this series a chance, especially if crime books are of interest to you as a reader. I feel like this could be the beginning of a very special comic.
Story: I was unfamiliar with Rich Tommaso before reading this issue, but I really enjoyed his style. This issue is broken up into two stories (The Red Circle and Deadly Daughters), both of which I assume are references to other works Tommaso is a fan of–Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge and Winston K. Marks’ The Deadly Daughters respectively. The narrative moves rather quickly, and that choice works well to give the story the feel of a classic crime comic. Much like its inspirational material, pulp comics and classic crime cinema. The stories revolve around some common tropes of genre fiction; in this case it is the chance score too easy to pass up, and revenge-minded progeny. The city of Red Circle itself is, and will surely develop more into, a character in its own right. Possessing elements of mid-twentieth century Los Angeles, the city is home to a large organized crime syndicate; possibly multiples, but in this first issue that fact is only insinuated and we are introduced mostly to fringe players.
The first of those characters is Pete. We meet Pete on the first page, and he is our guide perspective through the first story. He’s a hired gun and opportunist who stumbles upon a jewel, money and guns cache by chance, and then involves some of his cohorts. It’s a pretty straight forward heist story, but like most of these types of narratives, you know there is going to be some troubles ahead for Pete and Co. Plus, how Pete gets to the score, and interactions between the characters are entertaining to read. Like all criminal protagonists, Tommaso makes sure to provide Pete with some redeeming qualities, that make us as a reader connect with him in at least some small ways. I’m not going into details, because it’s better to just read it for yourselves. Tomasso sprinkles in some references to other films, like Samuel Fuller’s White Dog, and Jack Hill’s blaxploitation flick Coffy, starring Pam Grier. I love it when creators do this, because noticing them is fun and it gives some insight into the tastes and inspirations of the creator.
The second chapter is classic in its narrative structure; a man is admitted into a hospital with a suspicious injury, but before he undergoes emergency surgery, he is forced to recount the tale of how he ended up there to the police, so they can begin their investigation. What follows is an wonderful story of hit men, mysterious motorcyclists, and stolen jewels. By the end, the two chapters’ link is established, and the stage is set for an expanded journey through the bowels of criminal activity in the city of Red Circle.
Art: Tommaso also does the art for this series and it’s fantastic. He has a style all his own, but I noticed elements reminiscent of artists like Seth, Darwyn Cooke, Herge and Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould. I know, that’s some talented company, but take a look at this book and then tell me you don’t see it. Tommaso’s style leans to the deceptively simple side of art, which I’m a big fan of. I use the term “deceptively” because this style is anything but simple. He has a wonderfully economic use of line; it is clean, but not “perfect”, and it’s not intended to be. His bold outlines, color schemes and cartoonish approach to facial features work well to establish an aesthetic and he doesn’t skimp on details. His backgrounds are simple, but in the best way; he gives you the necessary details to provide a setting, but doesn’t get lost in frivolous minutiae. It’s important for the style of stories he’s telling, that the book attains a certain look and I think he does a wonderful job achieving that.
Conclusion: I’m excited for a book like this; in the back matter Tommaso provides info concerning the impetus and his goals for the comic and the world he’s creating. He elaborates that these stories are just the first in a series of tales he hopes to tell. Basically, he is attempting to create a hybrid of Sin City and classic EC Comics, where he can tell a multitude of stories that all take place in and around one city, but venture into different genres, like horror and sci-fi. It’s an exciting prospect and any fan of these genres should definitely check this comic out. Tommaso is a veteran of the industry who has earned, and will hopefully finally get, some wider recognition for his work. If you’re a fan of any of the referenced work I cited in this article, or maybe you enjoy Brubaker/Phillips’ Criminal and/or David Lapham’s Stray Bullets then this is exactly the kind of comic you should be checking out.
What say you NBC! faithful? Did anyone else check this out? Please let me know your thought in the comments below, and thanks for reading!