Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace

Written by Jason Hall
Art by Matt Kindt

I enjoyed the first Pistolwhip book, and was a little surprised to see that Matt Kindt was not credited with any of the writing on the second one, The Yellow Menace, despite the fact that the story feels very much like a Matt Kindt story.

Like the first book, this one is steeped in radio dramas, but also incorporates film, comic books, and pulp novels.  Our private detective, Pistolwhip, becomes embroiled in a weird plot involving a "Yellow Menace", basically a serial killer going around murdering people in manners influenced by baser popular culture.

At the same time that this is going on, a travelling lecturer, Roderick Loom, is warning of the dangers of this type of entertainment, especially on children.  He is clearly based on Frederick Wertham, the guy who wrote Seduction of the Innocent and became ultimately responsible for the introduction of the Comics Code Authority.

Opposing the Yellow Menace is Jack Peril, a character popular in the pulps, movie serials, radio dramas, and comics, who seems to be real.  He first appears after an explosion at the radio station where his adventures are broadcast.

Pistolwhip is usually a pretty clueless character, and Hall builds on that with this volume.  The story can be hard to follow in places, but is ultimately entertaining.  Kindt works on some cool transitions between scenes.  I particularly like the way he moves the camera into a character's ear, and then shifts to something else.  In one place, suggesting that a character is not mentally stable, we see a loose screw inside that character's ear, which then becomes part of a moving vehicle, establishing the next scene.

Reading this, you can see the growing talent in Kindt (this came out in 2002), and it's cool to compare to his more polished work of today. These stories have recently been collected as The Complete Pistolwhip, and that is probably the best way to interact with them, although I do like the oversized format of this book.

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