Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story

Written by Mat Johnson
Art by Simon Gane

I'd been looking forward to reading this graphic novel for a while.  I have been going through a bit of a New Orleans phase, precipitated by the brilliance of things like the HBO show Treme, Dave Eggers's Zeitoun, and Spike Lee's documentaries When the Levee Broke and If God is Willing and the Creek Don't Rise, not to mention some excellent magazine reporting on the rebuilding and recovery efforts.  Also, I really enjoyed Mat Johnson's last graphic novel, Incognegro, and Simon Gane's recent issue of Northlanders.

And so, with all of this foreknowledge and anticipation, the book is pretty much destined to disappoint, right?  That's how I felt for the first thirty pages or so, as Johnson struggled to introduce his cast and get the story underway.  Once things were established though, the story kind of took over, and I ended up finishing the book in a single night, staying up much later than I'd intended.

The book is about two characters - Emmit and Dabny, both ex-cons.  Emmit once worked at an independent bank in the Lower Ninth Ward, and sees the flood that followed Hurricane Katrina as his chance to pay back the boss he felt framed him, and to be able to spread the riches his former employers had hoarded for criminals around the community.  He enlists his roommate Dabny, an ex-soldier who he thinks can hook him up with Dark Rain, an independent military contractor he hopes will help him pull off the job.  Of course, Dark Rain is run by a psychopath, who decides to run the mission without him.

Now Emmit and Dabny are rushing into the city to try to rob the bank before Dark Rain can get there.  The problem is that along the way, Dabny feels that they should be rescuing people stuck on their roofs and generally helping with the unorganized and disastrous rescue efforts in the city.

There are plenty of great character moments, and a general sense of the disarray that followed the hurricane.  Gane uses a nice clean approach to the art, and a monochromatic colour scheme that helps emphasize just how much of the city is under water.  It's a good read - recommended.

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