You Have Killed Me TPB Review
Writer: Jamie S. Rich
Artist: Joelle Jones
Letterer: Douglas E. Sherwood
Designer: Keith Wood
Editor: James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Review by Cory Webber
You Have Killed Me is being reprinted in a soft cover trade paperback, collecting the entire story, 8 chapters in total, from the Eisner-award nominated creative team of Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones. This noir story is set in the late 1930’s, and it is dripping with all the trappings of what makes good noir fiction.
Antonio Mercer, a private eye, is tasked by Jessica, the sister of Julie, his ex-lover, who has recently disappeared. Now, this is a true noir through and through. So, naturally, Mercer is a down-on-his-luck male who has a soft spot for a beautiful woman, no matter how bad she might be for him. Rich’s writing is perfectly suited for this genre, from the clichéd dialogue, to the sexually-tense playful banter, to the angst-filled internal monologue. The story is formulaic, but only in terms of the bare bones of your typical noir.
You Have Killed Me begins by starting near the end of the story. We find Mercer in a bad spot, and the dialogue, from the get-go, has you hooked. I mean, the first line of the book is, “I remember the smell of almonds.” Brilliant! It was a weird hook, but it latched to the inside of the mouth of my imagination, and it didn’t let its grasp go until the end.
There is a panel (shown at the top of the article), early on in the book, that shows an actual photograph of 1930’s New York in the background, seen through the rear window of Mercer’s car. Even though it was the only time this occurred, it did not distract from the story, rather it gave it a jolt of reality. At 187 pages, this book actually reads pretty quick. The story flows so well that when I started reading it, one chapter turned into four, and before I knew it, I had finished the whole darn thing. There is no wasted space inside the panels, nor between them for that matter.
The art by Joelle Jones is just fantastic. This is the first black and white book I have read where I didn’t want to see at least a splash of color. The dark inks, and its varying shades, provided such a great depth and contrast. The movement from panel to panel was flawless. The strength of Jones’ work, in my opinion, is in her character designs. At times I thought I was perusing a fashion sketchbook.
A big part for me in any comic book are the facial expressions, and Jones’ work here is a master class on the subject. With the absence of color, the emotions portrayed by expressions, both facial and bodily, are essential in drawing you in to the story. Once I went in, I didn’t come back out until I finished. I don’t typically like black and white comics, but I couldn’t imagine a true noir story be told any other way.
The lettering complemented the story well. There was little use of sound effects, which, for me, heightened the suspense and intrigue as the story progressed. The design of the layouts were perfect for this story. I found the use of splash pages, and two-panel pages, to be used to great impact. On the other hand, I don’t recall there being a page with more than six panels on it. This was conducive to a tight, suspenseful noir tale to be briskly told.
Verdict: Buy it.
I would put You Have Killed Me up there with some of the best noir works out there. This is one I will revisit again in the future. The story and art combine to tell a tightly-paced suspenseful noir.