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[Rotting Retro Review] “Smoke/Ashes: Smoke”

With the release of Alex De Campi’s “Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight” earlier this week, Bloody-Disgusting thought it time to revisit “Smoke/Ashes.”

The collection released by Dark Horse houses both of De Campi’s adventures steeped in political intrigue and governmental issues in a world gone to shit: “Smoke” and “Ashes.”

Both series follow Reporter Katie Shah and assassin Rupert Cain as they team together to combat intricate terrorist threats. The English ruling class has thrown society into shit, and Cain and Katie find themselves the targets of very powerful men.

This week well focus on “Smoke.” Which tells the story of how these two unlikely heroes first meet in the midst of a global fuel crisis that threatens to destroy Britain. Over the course of the story they expose political corruption and diffuse a situation steeped in Cain’s past. It’s an action packed mystery brimming with social commentary that shouldn’t be missed.

WRITTEN BY: Alex De Campi
ART BY: Igor Kordey
PRICE: $29.99

From the opening pages of “Smoke” you know you’ve entered a world of disparity. The wealthy are distinctly separated from the common man. You learn that society has effectively gone to shit, and men who aim to take everything from the working class now rule Britain.

Rupert Cain is a gun for hire. A man with a code, and a sense of loss, we’re introduced to him doing what he does best: killing. De Campi shows that Cain often feels like a tool rather than a man. Something Cain must overcome. He must make a choice for himself rather than just following orders.

Katie Shah is a reporter just looking to break in big. Obviously this motivation isn’t outside the norm for anyone in journalism, but her feistiness’ and drive set her apart from the rest. She is willing to put herself in harms way for the good of the story. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is the key to Cain’s redemption.

Together these two become involved in a terrorist plot that sees London’s Apsley house turned into a hostage situation. The plan is to drive up gas prices and bring the economy of the country to a standstill. Through the use of marvelous and charismatic antagonists De Campi ensures every moment of this tense situation completely entertains.

While the terrorist threat isn’t exactly the main obstacle of the book it provides a launching pad for a serious pit of intrigue, corruption, and espionage. It’s incredible because each thread naturally and seamlessly weaves you through a tremendously complicated story. You’re in the hands of master storytellers the entire time.

Igor Kordey’s art here is reminiscent of early Frank Miller. His panels are steeped in grit and grim, showcasing the horrible future of London. While his characters are inherently flawed and beautiful. His depiction of Cain is menacing and vulnerable all at the same time. He draws the tough albino with certain malice in the eyes, but vulnerability behind all the leather.

While his depiction of Katie speaks volumes about her character. Her manner of dress and posture in certain panels shows a strong woman who is capable of much more than reporting.

Kordey’s handling of the action scenes will have you revisiting some of the best moments of late 80’s comics. His style is gritty and energetic. Every time a fight breaks out, you always know where you are, and where the action is. It’s no easy feat, but Kordey makes it a blast to part of.

He has some incredible splash panels in here. His depiction of London’s royal majesty is so hauntingly perfect that it will stay with you for a long time to come. Every panel with members of the Right to Beauty Brigade is just top notch. Kordey showcases some of the plumper members of Britain with a certain comical tone that never ceases to be funny.

“Smoke” took me by surprise. A weaving, intricate plot filled with social and political commentary wasn’t what I was expecting. Instead of taking an action packed route to the story, De Campi takes the time to explore the issues at hand. You feel as if you’ve learnt about your terrible place in society from reading it, and it should almost anger you. Which is good, because it may cause you to act, or at least be a little more aware of the world we live in.

On top of it, it strives just as high as stories like “V for Vendetta.” It succeeds in telling a wonderfully complex adventure that comics are not often known for. It’s increasingly interesting after reading “Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight.” Because it couldn’t be further from that book, which isn’t a bad thing, as both are marvelous, but in completely different ways.

Give “Smoke” a look if you are interested in social commentary, political espionage, and thrillers of the best kind. Look for issue 4 of “Grindhouse Doors Open At Midnight” on January 1st, 2014, with a review of “Ashes” to follow shortly thereafter.



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