Review: Carver: A Paris Story #1
“Like the best noir and Man of Intrigue stories, Hunt gives us a flawed man to root for despite ourselves.”
Carver: A Paris Story #1
Publisher: Z2 Comics
Writer and artist: Christopher Hunt
Release Date: Wed, Nov 11, 2015
The noir and spy genres have had held a grip on viewers and readers of those hard-boiled tales of danger and intrigue for years. However, executing a new, good noir yarn or spy flick can be a seemingly-insurmountable task. For every Casino Royale and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there are a Basic Instinct or a Heist. (My apologies to fans of those films, but whoa.) Pulp noir and film noir are tricky to execute, a balancing act for a creator who wants to be true to the genres, but not teeter into absurdity and parody.
Writer and artist Christopher Hunt, however, seems to be cognizant of this high-wire act, as he executes Carver: A Paris Story #1 for Z2 Comics with a reverence for classics like Corto Maltese without the endeavor becoming mimicry. And Hunt lets us know right away that there’s only one Francis Carver, an adventurer out for fortune and glory in the Paris of the 1920s. However, fortune and glory might have to wait, as we find him in the middle of helping a dear friend find her daughter, rekindling buried love in the process. Can Carver possibly juggle his mission, his emotions, and the mysterious Stacker Lee?
What impressed me most about Hunt’s story is his use of dichotomy, which is seen in some of the best noir stories. Carver and Stacker are presented as opposites, although their similarities might exist in the greys more than either would want to admit. Choices guide all of the characters’ worlds, leaving for muddy results and uncertainty in a world that we wish to be black and white, but never is. As much as Carver is a reflection of the genres, it’s also a reflection on us.
Those blacks and whites are present throughout the book’s art as well. Like the best noir of old, the atmosphere is much a character in Carver as anyone else. The color palette is that of blacks, whites, and greys—anything else would be an insult to noir itself—which helps to saturate the reader in the feel of Carver’s hard-boiled world. However, Hunt doesn’t merely rely on those shades to convey the overall feel of the book. The linework is minimal but gorgeous, as Hunt clearly has an idea of economy of penciling that allows him to use no more strokes than he has to in order to get the action or dialogue scenes across. Moreover, however, Hunt manages to pay homage to noir in that palette without parodying it or losing his own unique story and vision in the process.
What really struck me is how Hunt draws faces. Too much linework on comic book faces and there’s a danger of sliding into distracting, overly-stylized work. Too little, and the characters border on cartoonish. Hunt has found that sweet spot that seems especially important for a book like Carver: The economy that he brings with the rest of the art in the book gives birth to characters that readers both can connect to and take seriously, producing an emotional investment in those characters as a result.
Carver: A Paris Story #1 is one of those rare comic books that draws in readers with not only its sense of action and suspense, but with a creator who has a deep and intimate knowledge of the noir genre who can manipulate the genre without letting his story get lost in the weight of that genre. Like the best noir and Man of Intrigue stories, Hunt gives us a flawed man to root for despite ourselves.
Carver: A Paris Story #1 hits comic shops everywhere on November 11th from Z2 Comics.