Last night I read Eddie Campbell's Black Diamond Detective Agency, which is fairly new from First Second Books (which produces some really amazing works!). I was too overwhelmed at Comic Con this year to visit Campbell (I think my brother said he was there, but I never crossed paths with his table). So alas, I did not get a signed copy, but I'm glad to have bought a copy at all. Campbell was the first "comic" artist who inspired me to think that I could actually draw (probably From Hell was one of the first graphic novels I ever saw aside from Spiegelman that had a distinctive art style that wasn't traditional superheroes. I immediately fell in love with his inks and washes and later developed a similar affinity for his watercolors. Black Diamond Detective Agency is one of only a few full-color books of his, and I love the gritty palette he's chosen for the end of the 19th century ~ it goes well with the industrial aspects of the storyline and keeps the tone somber and noirish) like a detective book should be, right?

There's problems with the script, I think. I mean, the story is good: exploding train, missing wife, framed mystery man, even a good old-fashioned chase in a gas-saturated mine. But given another twenty pages or so, some of the more crashing scene changes and bafflingly curt dialog might have flowed more smoothly. There's also some lengthy explanations at the end: wherein the villain explains all ~ very Victorian in construction so I'll give it props for the formula, but as Campbell was working from a script by C. Gaby Mitchell and perhaps either as a difficulty of editing or a limitation of space, certain information and character development feels a wee crammed up. Or it could just be that I wanted to savor the book longer (or ghoulishly wanted more 'splosions, which is always a possibility).

Nevertheless, this is a beautiful little book and I hope we'll see more like it. I tried (perhaps in a desultory fashion given my awareness of my own personal artistic limitations), to emulate this style in at least one incarnation of Reconstruction. It didn't work out. But I'm glad to be able to admire the work here ~ even if it's something I can't reproduce, it continues to inspire.

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