Newburn #1 Advance Review
Newburn #1 Advance Review
Publisher: Image Comics
Written By: Chip Zdarsky
Pencils and Colors By: Jacob Phillips
Letters By: Jacob Phillips
Cover By: Jacob Phillips
Review By: Brandon Chandler
Goodfellas. The Long Goodbye. The Sopranos. The Maltese Falcon. The Godfather. Road to Perdition. Everybody loves a good crime fiction story now and again. It’s something about watching these morally ambiguous characters that pique our interest right from the start, despite how shady they truly are. And though for most of us the moral imperative compels us not to indulge in such shady activities, we find ourselves transfixed by watching others engage in it. So what does this have to do any of this have to do with Newburn #1? Well, it feels like the right place to get some kind of understanding about the star of the new Image series from Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips. This series came as a bit of a surprise announcement when it arrived as it paired both rising stars in comics together on a new crime fiction series. In particular, Jacob has just finished the first arc of a highly underrated crime fiction comic from Image Comics called That Texas Blood, a series which I would love to do a deep dive on at some point, as there is a lot to break down on its format and story. However, this is a story about Newburn, the comic which you clicked here to read about, so I’ll stop beating around the bush.
Newburn #1 introduces us to the private detective and titular character Easton Newburn, a freelancer who is on retainer for the various mobs in New York City. A clever twist on the private eye trope, what I enjoyed about this one is that Newburn doesn’t have any preset allegiances. So whether he operates in the light or in the dark is still ambiguous at this point, something which Zdarsky highlights in the script. Easton Newburn isn’t ruthless, but he’s definitely not soft, willing to do what it takes to get at the source of truth if he needs it. This is to be expected, of course, as he’s working for the most powerful families in the city…but that doesn’t seem to intimidate him. Easton Newburn is relaxed, cool, collected…he screams the experienced, hard-boiled detective we have seen in nearly every crime fiction story. This both works and falters in a sense, as Newburn’s comfortable nature makes him an ace detective but also makes him appear a tad invulnerable. My hope is that we do see some of his weaknesses at a later point, as having an invincible, unstoppable protagonist can become boring after a certain point. The ending provides a bit of a twist (which, if you’ve been reading my reviews you know I won’t spoil to get you guys to read it) yet interesting enough to get me on to the next issue. So on the whole, while I was impressed with the package, I couldn’t help but feel something was…lacking.
Let me explain.
While Zdarsky provides a very solid script for Jacob to work off of (and he does work well) I didn’t get the feeling that I really connected with any of the characters after finishing the first issue. In a genre that really thrives off of rich characters, I needed something that would connect me on a deeper level with Easton Newburn and I didn’t feel that within this first issue. So while the scenario of the story and the plot certainly had me interested, I needed more character work to completely hook me. Easton’s stoic nature works with the story, but this is one of those times where I feel internal monologues or narration might have been appropriate to get a richer sense of Newburn’s motivations, his emotions, his past, etc. This could all be further explored in later issues (and I fully expect that) but I did come away feeling a little disappointed that I didn’t connect with the characters more. In regards to the story, it is another introductory issue though it establishes its central plot (or at least the plot for this first story arc) fairly quickly, so I was never unclear as to what was actually happening. This is both a plus and a minus as a murky crime fiction story like this does need clarity at some points, but I might have liked a little more ambiguity at other points. In particular, with regards to who Newburn actually works for I might have liked more ambiguity on that information, so we really have no sense of who Newburn is, which would have worked well with the mystery of the story. By giving away this info in the first couple of pages, that mystery is lost, and all sense of suspense vanishes. I remember stopping about halfway through because I felt like I needed to recollect my thoughts before finishing, which is something that rarely happens when reading a mystery or crime fiction story. Normally I’m glued until the very end, but this issue required at least one break for me in between finishing it Again, just a little disappointing from such a high profile team.
Okay, all right, so I bullied them enough…what about the good stuff?
Well, Jacob Phillips certainly is the definition of a rising star in comics because each new project has seen him elevate his art style even more. It’s truly amazing watching creators evolve so fast, and I think Jacob is fast on his way to becoming a crime fiction legend like his father. Once again, check out That Texas Blood if you haven’t already, it’s a captivating read. Though I was quite critical, Zdarsky’s script is still solid and delivers a competent, fast pace narrative that will (at the very least) get you interested in reading the next issue. I just wish I was more invested, given how solid the premise of the mafioso detective is.
Yeah, yeah, you’ve talked enough…what did you rate it?
Once again, I struggle with rating these books, but I’ll admit this one was a little easier to find a number for that WTFPFH. Though flawed in its characterization and certain story choice, Newburn is still a solid, well-produced delivery from two talented creators. With that in mind, I rate this issue:
FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10
I would encourage everyone to pick up this issue and determine for yourself how you feel about the debut of Newburn. What did you like? What didn’t you like? Maybe I’m a pedantic whiner who is wrong and has no taste…who knows? Regardless, I hope you all check it out when the first issue comes out on November 3.
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