With a penchant for crack shot storytelling, the creative team of Newburn #9 deliver the goods in the highly anticipated return to the fan favourite crime procedural.
I have to admit, it took me a while to start writing this review for Newburn #9. What new and interesting angle could I bring to a review of a proven hard boiled detective comic? Then it hit me; I realized that much like the comic I had just read, it’s not about trying too hard to be groundbreaking and edgy. But rather, working within an established structure, to tell an interesting and gripping story.
With Newburn #9, from the powerhouse creative team of multiple Eisner winner Chip Zdarsky (W) and multiple Eisner nominated Jacob Phillips (A), we get exactly that. A familiar tale told with exceptional flair. Containing just the right amounts of grit, grime and sharp dialogue to satisfy the appetite of mystery and thriller fans.
Titled ‘Your Old Life’, this is actually chapter 9 for our central character Easton Newburn. Newburn, a NYC cop in his past life, is a private detective working with and against the city’s biggest crime factions. When I took this assignment, I was told that I could check out the previous 8 issues to better acquaint myself with the character and his world. However, I wanted to go in cold to see if Zdarsky and Phillips could sink their hooks into me. They didn’t disappoint.
The creative team has taken a well worn archetype, the stoic, case hardened detective, and updated it with just enough of a modern angle to make it feel relevant and fresh.
If you’re coming into the series with fresh eyes, Zdarsky cleverly uses excerpts from “Emily’s Journal”, having the written thoughts of a character catch us up on the events of the first volume. Emily herself, as a character, acts as the audience surrogate, giving us insight into Newburn while also serving as a guide to his world and the greater world the creative team is establishing. Her relationship with Newburn is a fascinating look into the dichotomy of not only the titular character, but his relationship to Emily and the other shady denizens they come into contact with. Emily never takes a backseat to him, as she is a consistently interesting presence with a past that illustrates that none of us are as innocent as we’d like to believe.
The artwork evokes 80’s Frank Miller, with a variety of color tones and emotive facial expressions, lending a scummy realism to the affair. We follow Newburn as he investigates a missing mafioso while also trying to stay one step ahead of the various organizations who’d like to see him dead or retired. We’re also thrust into a mystery involving a dead cop with ties to the underworld. Are the two cases related? Time will tell.
Newburn #9 features artwork with an impressive flair for the dramatic.
Phillips is inventive in his use of color washes to subtly set the tone of different scenes. All the while balancing the real world feel with a sense of heightened emotion and violence. His artwork perfectly compliments the down and dirty feel of the dregs of society that Newburn and Emily have dealings with.
Detective fiction is a genre that has been explored in various media for over 100 years now so of course we’ve been exposed to wildly different takes and deconstructions of the tropes and themes that go along with this type of story. In Newburn we’re given a good old fashioned detective story. Starring a classic anti-establishment anti-hero, who I’m sure will do the right thing in the end. Or maybe not. All I know is, I want to read the next issue and find out.
Hold up wait…there’s more.
But before that next issue, we get a short backup feature. ‘Go Back’, from writer David Brothers and artist Nick Dragotta. Featuring sparse dialogue and compact, brutal action. Told in beautiful black and white line work, this short tale evokes an early 80’s indie comics feel. Presenting us with a tale of the moral gray areas that sinners in the big city navigate daily. It serves as a worthy epilogue of sorts to our main feature and is a story I hope is expanded upon in future issues.
In the modern world we live in, most things we want or need are but a click away. But there are still people who take things by force, who live on the fringes or follow a code of honor that they sometimes need to bend. These are the characters and stories you’ll encounter when you step into the world of Newburn. If you don’t mind getting dirty, you may just enjoy yourself.
Newburn #9 is available in comic shops July 26, 2023.
Editor’s note: Be sure to tune in to The House of Nerd Show on Sunday July 30th! LIVE at 1pm ET for Chip & Jacob’s return to The House! Save the date!