The Colodin Project TPB – Ken Krekeler

3 out of 5

As broad in scope as other Ken Krekeler books, The Colodin Project collection is only less directly impactful because it’s not yet a complete story. Not that a trade has to have a set end – especially when the tale is / was intended to continue – but Krekeler has structured these first five issues in such a way as to suggest a conclusion of sorts, and it somewhat undermines the experience. Put together with whatever the entire tale might’ve been (I can find links to a second volume of The Colodin Project but they don’t go anywhere – I don’t know that it was ever printed, and I can only find links to one further print issue beyond what’s in this trade), I trust that that undermining would be corrected, but as it stands, this is sort of a half-in, half-out experience: Ken does somewhat solve a murder mystery that he posits at story’s start, but also makes it clear that that murder doesn’t really matter at all.

Colodin is bookended by two black and white scenes: PI Steven Richards getting grilled by the FBI, about two characters / concepts that are key in the issues between – a mobster; and the titular project. These are flash forwards, from an unclear point in time, and so we flash back – to when ex-cop Richards is getting fed up with the grind of his PI work, until a strange case lands on his lap: here’s a big chunk of change to investigate a ritualistic murder of a homeless man the police have otherwise ignored. In typical cryptic-case manner, Richards’ pressing of his client for more info – why him; who’s his client working for; etc. – are countered with non-answers and more money, and Richards is undeniably intrigued to be involved in something a bit more complex than cheating spouses. The procedural stuff here is awesome – Krekeler, whose other books have leaned very much into fantasy / sci-fi, does an excellent job of pounding the PI pavement in a fashion that’s gripping to read, and also suited to his gritty linework and surrealist colors; I loved that Richards’ investigation makes sense, plucking at loose leads and just drilling into possibly pointless conversations until that next loose lead can be found. This takes us on an issue-by-issue tour of increasingly odd types, which is a plus for the narrative at the time, but eventually ties into the relative minus of how the volume concludes – Ken maybe pushes too hard on making the random be purposeful, and so it robs the procedural aspect of its fun.

We also start to get cutaways to help explain what The Colodin Project might be, the term ‘Colodin’ itself coming up with frequency in Richards’ case. These bits are intriguing, and bridge the story to its sci-fi elements. But again, the promise of this setup is balanced out by a partial exposition dump at the end – like, Krekeler realizing he needs to give us something, perhaps, since the overall plot is pretty oblique (the murder mystery is solved, as mentioned, but it’s very much a background detail), but I’d wonder if the book wouldn’t have felt stronger by leaving it even more mysterious. Maybe more frustrating as a result, hence the mini-wrap up we get, but it could’ve made for more of a cliffhanger sensation as opposed to the “Does it end here?” deflating we get at book’s end.

Again, having been wowed by Ken’s other stuff, I have no doubt that the whole Colodin story would put these feelings to rest, but I can only react to what I’ve read. This shouldn’t deter one from checking this out, as it’s solid in all other regards: Ken’s art has a photo reference style, but he chunks it up with his scratchy linework in a way that I love, and that prevents it from feeling stiff – like a slightly looser, weirder Michael Lark. And his dialogue is to die for – it’s so natural, and delivers the information we need (exposition dump aside) in a believable manner that respects our ability to pick up on subtext without hand-holding.

The trade has 0 extras, but I believe it’s print-to-order, so that’s to be expected, and it’s surely priced reasonably (14.99) for its 5-ish issues worth of content.