Friday, June 30, 2017

PEEPLAND by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips

Peepland is the best of the graphic novels that Hard Case Crime has released so far as part of their new line of hard-boiled crime comic books. The book is written by acclaimed crime authors Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, and the story was spawned by Faust's experiences in her past career working in the New York City peep booths back in the day. It takes place in 1986 NYC and is about Roxy Bell, a peepshow artist working a booth at Peepland in Manhattan, who, after agreeing to stash a VHS tape for pornographer Dirty Dick, finds herself caught in a conspiracy that turns increasingly more dangerous every day.

This book does such a great job of dropping you into the world of pre-Guiliani 80's Manhattan (filled with porno theaters, pawn shops, and graffiti) and the people who roam the island. In their own way, Faust and Phillips touch a lot on what was going on in the society in that era as well, like the Central Park Five or the AIDS epidemic. The art by Andrea Camerini is effective and playful, with the saturated colors that we've come to expect from 80's stories.

There seems to be a real command of the story here. It's confident, well-structured, and a bit addicting actually. I found myself really caring about the characters in a very short amount of time and wanted to see where their story went. I loved the way the story developed in a way that all the lives surrounding Peepland were affected by this interconnecting plot. The dialogue is great, and each character was memorable and efficiently developed. And most important, despite its downbeat ending, the book is lots of fun to read. You can really feel the passion behind it all. By combining Faust's  knowledge of the time and place from her past life, Gary Phillips's experience of writing for comic books, and both of their solid crime fiction sensibilities, Hard Case Crime rocked it with this great release!


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