By Brian Michael Bendis
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Yeah. Hold your breath: because Goldfish just chucks you into the deep end and expects you to float . There's a phone call but good luck trying to work out who's talking and what they're talking about and who they're talking to: and then we're somewhere else with different people doing different stuff which then very quickly takes a turn for the violent ("In this business personal honor is everything.") and then it's on to the compère before we've even had a chance to rise to the surface and gulp down some fresh air and then you're hit by the title "Created and executed by Brian Michael Bendis" : "Ya ready? Good."
Oh yeah - didn't anyone say? Not only is Brian Michael Bendis a gifted writer - but the funt can draw as well (what can I say? Life isn't fair).
Published all the way back in 1994 all the way back before Bendis became the head honcho at Marvel Comics (and his writing talents squandered on the never-battle of superheroes doing superheroy stuff) Goldfish is a hard-boiled noir with a cast drawn from the usual batch of femme fatales and ex-cops on the take... With striking black and white artwork that smashes itself across the page like a hammer into a sheet of glass, words that half the time can't even be bothered to stand up straight but tilt from side to side like as if were stuck in a car careening down winding back-alley streets and word ballons that bubble and morph from blobby screams of pain into heart-shaped thanks you: this isn't a book that's scared to put in the time to create an experience that's visceral and exciting and that's got everything timed exactly right: the singer says "hit it!" and elsewhere someone else let's loose with a stream of bullets : and the way that things get unleashed in time to the rim-shots on the drum and the blasts on the trumpet? It's the kind of thing that I could very easily imagine Alan Moore reading and sagely nodding his head to ("Yeah. That's the stuff.").
And - well since it's Bendis this is hardly worth mentioning but still - if you're coming in: you should know that it's all about the dialogue. It isn't afraid to make itself sound a little silly ("Holy shit and a half" anyone?) and doesn't mind being cute ("It sure feels black and white") but mostly it's all about being as straight to the point as possible: pure objective and all that. Twisting everything to it's sharpest point and then cutting the reader like a piece of glass: coming alive especially when he's working with more than two people: that card game in particular crackles with just the right type of natural electricity - of people taking over each other, ignoring each other: all the word ballons expertly arranged so even tho it's chaotic (and it does get quite chaotic - cutting from place to place with lots happening all over) - you can still what's going on.
Yeah: it's a crime comic. But it's low-down and dirty: where the "hero" isn't the guy in the sharp suits and the million dollar penthouses: he's sitting alone in empty cafes and hustling his ass off. Think Tony Montana before he made all his riches or Carlito Brigante before he got old: only instead of Al Pacino's gruff Italy-Americanisms think Dante's from Kevin Smith's Clerks (I know I was. Maybe it's the facial hair? Yeah - it's probably the facial hair). All this mixed into a cocktail sprinkled with a few shots of the type of fast-talking David Mamet and Quentin Tarantino love so much (with an extra dash of vodka - natch). If that's too much movie-referencing for your little head then maybe you should brush up on your classics before you head on in: not that you'll need to have watched them in order to understand what's going on but just to get you in the right mood - this is a book that wears it's love of movies right on it's sleeves ("You like movies?" "Yeah - I love movies.") - and hangs the posters on it's walls. Although always with an eye on how to turn all those exhilarating and fist-clenching movie moments into comic form .
 Admittedly - it's not as hardcore as say - Stray Toasters or The Adventures of Luther Arkwright when it comes pure and total audience befuddlement - but if you've come to this book on the back of his mainstream Marvel stuff - well - it's not exactly going to spoon-feed you in the way that you may be used to...
 Which half me thinks sounds kinda cool while the other half just kinda thinks it seems a little bit like a Guy Ritchie knockoff (ouch). I mean - I know that Spike Lee likes to call his films "joints" but that's no real excuse: then again (hell): at least it means you know exactly what to expect.
 Whoops. No - my mistake - actually it's flashlight. Sorry - I think the neo-noirness had me ready to always expect the most violent option. But - hey - easy mistake to make - right?
 In fact: in the Three Card Monte Ten Years Ago flashback one of the guys standing in the background is wearing a T-Shirt with this design on it: which the more geeky of you will recognise from Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics book. Which - to me - is a nice little bit of showing off / insider referencing: "Hell yeah - I like comics."
Links: Multiversity Comics Review
Further reading: Sin City, Criminal, 100 Bullets, Scalped, Daredevil (2001 - 2006), Desolation Jones, Stray Toasters.
Profile: Brian Michael Bendis.
All comments welcome.