BOSTON BLACKIE: BLACKOUT (MOONSTONE NOIR)
Artwork by Kirk Van Wormer
Moonstone Noir / 48 pages / 2002
Maybe you are familiar with Boston Blackie from the short stories of Jack Boyle. It could be you remember Chester Morris portraying the “gentleman thief” in films, or Kent Taylor stepping into the role for the fledgling medium of television. The last of these dramas premiered more than fifty years ago, so you can be forgiven if this graphic novel is your first exposure, or if it sets you off on a quest to find more of his adventures.
Stefan Petrucha and Kirk Van Wormer’s Boston Blackie returns to the roots Jack Boyle started, bringing Blackie back to the other side of the line, often teetering on the jagged edge of legal. In parts crook, opium-eater, crusader, and always with a code of ethics that makes him a criminal you can root for. It seems the darker half of Blackie is doing battle with the moral half in this very noir tale. Is he responsible for a horrifying homicide committed years before? Could the influence of drugs make him go against everything he believes? Finding the truth may free him — or it could tear him apart.
Blackie’s not the only one interested in getting to the bottom of this; the cops and robbers have their own theories. Neither bodes well for the remorseful Blackie.
Pulp fans will delight in the return to crime stories of the past. Petrucha’s terse and hard-boiled prose harkens back to the tough guys of the golden age of radio. “Broadway Is My Beat,” “The Shadow,” and “Gangbusters” would be perfectly in-synch with this reincarnation of Blackie. This is a time when dames are dames, coppers are coppers, and no one ever really wins completely. The story is perfectly matched by the black-and-white inking of Van Wormer, who captures the flavour of the genre in two dashing dimensions.
Keep your peepers peeled while you follow Boston Blackie’s struggle to find the truth at the heart of this latest mystery. Told in cryptic and tight-lipped style, the graphic novel doesn’t just lay the answers out in front of you. True, part of this is due to some minor inking mistakes that attribute dialogue incorrectly, but primarily it’s because you, the reader, have to do some work of your own to unravel the tangle of lies and half-truths. Not to mention the background story that weaves through the artwork, adding depth to the spoken narrative.
If I can’t have Detective Danny Clover out pounding the streets of Manhattan, then Boston Blackie is a ray of hope for getting that atmosphere back into crime fiction. Maybe Moonstone Noir came bring back that special breed of questionable hero and tense drama that should never have been abandoned. Do that and they’ll have loyal readers for life.