Writer, Creator: Steve Orlando
Artist, Creator: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Associate Editor: Arielle Basich
Editor: Jon Moisan
Review by Christoph Staffl
Let’s begin with a recap: the main characters of the first issue of Crude is the family of Piotr Petrovich Bilibin. We meet them, as Piotr and his wife try to have dinner with their son. The problem lies not with Kiril, but with his father. Often, he seems far away, though standing right next to them. His preoccupation results in neglecting his family, which is a price he has to pay for being in the “insurance business.” And by “insurance” I mean killing people.
As the years go by, Kiril knows less and less about his father; they are strangers to one another. The situations between them feel empty. The artwork brilliantly captures this feeling of loneliness and regret. The rough lines with thick inking underline the seriousness of particular scenes, but can also be very detailed and therefore powerful in its ability to capture different, intimate situations.
Everything changes in Crude as a former colleague (?) of Piotr delivers Kiril’s cold, dead body in a black body bag. Kiril was killed by a clean headshot. The mystery lies in the island of Blackstone, where Kiril worked at a refinery, in the hope of finding a new life and meaning for himself. As we get to know Kiril throughout the first issue, he seems to know that he poses a target for certain parties. Especially parties which target people of the LGTBQ+ community: Kiril is bisexual and does not try to hide his relationships. And although Piotr did not know his son as he was alive, he sets out on a journey, willing to use every ability and skill he has learned over the last decades, to get revenge for his son.
That’s the situation and Crude #2 begins as an angry, dedicated father reaches the island of Blackstone. The mood for this issue is immediately set, as Piotr asks the city if it is ready for him. Not the other way around. There is no mercy on the journey ahead. There is no forgiveness. It says a lot about the abilities of Piotr Petrovich Bilibin as he arrives at this anus of a city (the words of a lifelong citizen, not mine), with nothing but his clothes and his skills. Does he know anything about this place? I don’t think so. But he is willing to find out everything.
There are three main parties on Blackstone, fighting for territory: Petropinnacle, this seems to be the company that owns the refinery and has built almost everything around it. Then we have Meshe Adam, a group organized by the people, fighting against the oppression of Petropinnacle, and led by Conan. Conan and his Meshe Adam group seem to be relatively new on this island, but they are already infiltrating their opponent, and the people have to/want to pay tribute to Conan. His endgame, though, is not yet clear. Last but not least is Prava, a group we know nothing about so far.
There is not a lot happening in Crude #2, as it acts as a setup of Blackstone, its politics, and the arrival of Piotr. But that is enough because the creators Garry Brown and Steve Orlando take their time to get in the right mood and prepare you for the coming storm. The most powerful scenes in this issue are those where Piotr is just standing in an alley, fueling his anger with things that have been said to him. He thinks about his son. About missed opportunities. Losses.
I like the overall design of Crude very much. Beginning with the two-page opening spread, to the fight scenes, and the meetings of Conan – you never get lost. It can be a bit confusing, figuring out which people belong to which party, but this also invites you to stay a bit longer in this world, maybe reread it, and flip through the pages a couple of times. This way you can also appreciate the coloring as Lee Loughridge changes the color palette as the day progresses.
In my opinion, the art changed a bit as well (from the last issue to this one). Gone are the thick inking lines that Brown used in some scenes in the first issue. They were used primarily for situations where Piotr had this almost uncontrollable anger that spilled off of the pages or situations that were almost too serious to bear witness to. However, now that he is at Blackstone, the lines are still rough and edgy, but also fine and detailed as though he can control his emotions and use them against his enemies.
The Verdict: Buy it.
Crude #2 is a great continuation of a new series. You have to read it. Every single part of Crude, be it the storytelling, the artwork, or the unique characters, lines up perfectly to give you an experience you will not forget. I’ve asked myself: What is this series really about? What is its core? And, to be honest, I haven’t figured it out yet. Yes, there is revenge, of course. But, what lies beneath the surface? There is a lot more to uncover, and it just might get more honest and brutal along the way. I can’t wait for the next issue and the opportunity to talk about it.