|| Reviews - Marley Davidson - #1
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The Notable Debut of an African-American Comic Book Character - SarahVespes
Issue one of Marley Davidson started appearing in comic book shops in New York City in the summer of 1995. What set its first issue apart from the scores of other independent action comics, particularly the [at the time] new wave of Black & White comics in the wake of Sin City's popularity, was its narrative tone and dense visual richness.
This is no simple “noir-as-comic-book” exercise.
The comic book's cover is somewhat misleading [heavy pen and ink brush], perhaps intentionally so: The story that unravels within issue one is told with not one single solitary area of black ink; even the shadows are compulsively rendered with intense, razor thin, scratch-like "shadowing." Only blood and the line work itself is black, giving the rivulets streaming from bullet wounds for example, an unique and disturbing quality.
The artwork overall employs re-copied hand drawn patterns [sometimes even resized depending on the changes in distance from panel to panel in a sequence] for backdrops, giving the reader a grounded feeling of continuity as in watching a TV show or motion picture wherein sets reappear.
The story is an unconventional one and highly irregular in mainstream adventure comics. It concerns the titular character Marley Davidson, [presumably a monster hunter for hire] and his client, [a gangster afraid his mob family has been infiltrated by vampires.] While the plot does not attempt to hide its conclusion, instead telegraphing and foreshadowing the eventual betrayal very casually; it is important to note that the plot is not the focus of discovery in the story: Marley's moral character and ethics are.
Marley Davidson is not a hero of any kind in this first story. He is more of a hit man who happens to love his work with the unrestricted enthusiasm of a neighbourhood butcher. To appreciate the significance of this, it is of utmost importance to again cite the context in which it was created. The 1980s saw the ascension of Marvel's Wolverine as one of the most popular comic book characters ever created. But what was initially a thoughtfully nuanced anti-hero; a berserker with a heart of gold in Chris Claremont's hands, and an assassin with a tortured conscience in Frank Miller’s iteration, eventually became a tired overwrought caricature of the outsider. In the hands of other writers, Wolverine became theatrically unstable, illogical and violent. But the worst part of Wolverine’s then bastardization was all of the imitations he inspired in mainstream comics. With the exception of Alan Moore’s Rorschach, the anti hero in mainstream comics was a vapid vehicle for destruction, violence and [implied] gore and little else. Marvel’s Punisher may have been one of the most maligned characters suffering because of that precedent set by Wolverine’s less imaginative handlers.
-Which brings us back to the character of Marley Davidson in issue one.
Marley Davidson is not an anti-hero nor is he a deluded hero within his own mind. Marley is a zealot. He is a thoughtlessly dedicated hunter who sees the enemy in much the same way racists see the object of their obsessions.
When we are introduced to Marley, he is an inarguably dangerous person, and at the end of the story we get a frightening glimpse into what his commitment can lead to. There is nothing noble about Marley’s ardour. It is as unfulfilling for the reader as the score on an abacus; even Marley’s spiritual justification in the name of a presumably Christian God rings hollow at the story’s end. Unlike the purported “anti-heroes” of Marvel and DC comics in the late 1980s and 1990s, Marley doesn’t maim [in Marley’s case kill] because he can’t help it, or because he is battling contrived inner demons, memories etc. Marley kills because he hates his enemy. Marley’s hatred is a profound existential difference and an ugly one not encountered in other superheroes. The nakedness of this hate expressed in his willingness to abandon others close to him, and to kill with self impunity is the real story in issue one.
The story of the whole series threatens to be, -how far does his hate go and where can it lead?
A wild start: **** (4 Stars out of 4) - blastogurl
Black and White comics are easy to print and produce, which is why we see so many of them, but they are hard to execute well. There were a plethora of new indie comics in the 1990s ranging from the angst-testimonial narratives to low brow superhero fare and continue to be. 'Marley Davidson' is hard to categorize and review, it is impossibly violent, droll in tone and doesn't look like anything I've ever read except for maybe John Findley's 'Tex Arcana' that ran in Heavy Metal in the 1980s. On the criteria I use to assess a comic book's value I look for the following to award stars to: Originality, Writing, Art, Production. The first issue of Marley Davidson scored 4 out of 4. This was a very strange and unique independent comic for its time or even today, (Think Spain's 'Trash Man' with vampires) it's a very stripped down (but dense approach due to all the cross hatching) comic, with no 'thought balloons,' caption narration or even sound effects graphics. So it reads kind of the way "the Exorcist" felt when I finally watched it last year, like a documentarian approach to a ridiculous but scary subject. So it got one star from me for originality. The writing and drawing are not only good and different, they work well together. The writer seems to know just when to let the pictures tell the story. You can almost feel the heavy silence, out deafening noise in the sequences that are just images. Also as for the art: it's got some of the craziest, byzantine patterning on buildings and backdrops I've ever seen in an independent comic. This is very different from Jimenez' work in WW3 illustrated which is very cartoony and pop-artish. Lastly the production is also bizarre, the cover seems to be made from paper bags, it's brown like wrapping paper, which I think is like a big diss against comics who put all their printing value into the covers, but this comic saves the best art work for inside. It's a welcome turning of the tables (how many times have I bought a comic with a great color cover and gotten a real crappy story inside? -too many). Each issue is numbered and embossed on the inside back cover, which is such a nice personal touch. It appears only 500 were made of the print run for the issue I have, which I hope to get signed by the artist someday.
My verdict: 4 out of 4 stars.