Keyzer Soze: Scorched Earth / Rift FCBD (2017) – Paul Ens / Don Handfield / Richard Rayner

5 out of 5

While my takes on the two slices of Red 5 books here vary, the “value” of this as a Free Comic Book Day entry – which I believe should function as entranceways to new books, especially when they’re done in a preview format like this – is spot on.

Keyzer Soze: Scorched Earth feels rather dated, a way-after-the-fact mythologizing of a character from a movie from two decades ago. I’m half in / half out on this concept: it’s interesting to show some events which would’ve led to the character’s reputation by the time of said movie, Usual Suspects, but I’m not sure the book – or at least what we have here – does enough of a job to interest us in Keyzer without foreknowledge of who he is. His initial introduction, popping up in the middle of a drug deal, is interesting, he just kind of becomes a generic bogeyman type after that; the dialogue and art maybe don’t help enough, though, with the former (Paul Ens) way too wordy to keep the pacing / tone, and the latter (Livia Pastore) not juggling the cast of the gangs meeting up for the deal too well – not establishing who’s who and where they are, although the choreography once things start to go awry is exciting and well handled. It’s also, er, unfortunate that the cops show up and only manage to fatally shoot the two black criminals, and I don’t think it’s meant to be any kind of commentary, but, sure.

Anyhow, the wishy-washiness of the premise and setup aside, I do think this is a good preview: it has a sense of conclusion, and feels like it gives me a sense of the vibe of the book, which is ultimately the intention.

The Rift is great. It’s a totally generic sci-fi idea, with a time rift seemingly opening up and allowing a WWII pilot to crash-land in modern times, but it’s got a very tight, cinematic feel to it. Writers Don Handfield and Richard Rayner segue into things by starting us inside a car with a mother and son, swerved off the road by the crashing plane, and while this is also a 100% stereotypical setup, the pacing is really spot on and the dialogue feels very natural; not forced. Artist Leno Calvaho also has a great style that balances some photo reference with comic book momentum, like some Michael Lark notes but with the weight and energy of someone like Jackson Guice – all very cool and supportive of that cinematic vibe. Most importantly, as with Keyzer Soze, we get both a setup and an “ending” within a few pages, and leave me feeling like I understand how this book reads.

So the fact that this FCBD preview is, firstly, free, and, secondly, has contents which do their jobs as previews, but there are a couple of additional niceties: two covers, front and back. It’s sort of weird, because the front cover has both titles on it, whereas the back only has The Rift, but I still like it, just seals the deal on this whole thing being dedicated to the material inside. Additionally, the inside front cover has full credits for both titles, as well as little summary blurbs on each – I love stuff like this, because it’s the easiest reference, and doesn’t try to “hide” anything: I can check out the summaries and figure out if I’m interested, right away.

All of this to say: a great FCBD pickup – worth the reading time, and a likely bid for roping in some new readers.