[6 August 2012]
PopMatters Associate Comics Editor
It’s all an illusion, this idea of happy endings, neatly wrapped up stories that connect all the dots and cut off all (or most of) the loose ends. But these illusions, or stories in this context, are what we need. Closure is such a strong and overused word, but that’s what we crave, and the final chapter of Blue Estate delivers exactly that…and then, room for more.
For 12 issues, Image’s Blue Estate has reexamined the tropes and conventions of pulp noir, using the salaciousness of Hollywood as a backdrop to prop-up the absurdity of a fame- and violence-obsessed culture. There has been mystery, cunning, gun play, double cross after another, sex, acting, and the like; amped up to a degree that defies the causalities of such behavior.
Blue Estate embodies postmodern irony to such a degree that you can’t help but smile at each panel, recognizing the biting wit and paradox of characters going about the routine of noir stories. It’s a mix of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie films, with a generous helping of Elmore Leonard novels and a twist of absurdist comedy. To say this is not your father’s pulp noir is a fair statement. Its underlying postmodern and ironic trappings, draw from what we read about on TMZ and watch on E! True Hollywood Story. These postmodern and ironic trappings grow so powerful because they dwell in the richly sadistic and dark absurdity of celebrity seediness. An absurdity and seediness all too familiar to our popculture lives.
We last left off with AA-sponsor Assassin Prince Charming Clarence coming to the rescue of recovering alcoholic starlet damsel in distress Rachel, while the Russian and Italian mobs went to war outside the termite infested derelict real estate investment of idiotic mobster Tony. In between is inept private eye Roy Devine, Jr., seemingly just trying to survive a case that he barely understands or thinks he understands.
In the end, everyone will get theirs, mainly in the most ironic ways possible, justifying the universally understood idea that narratives must be wrapped up cleanly – the “dun, dun” included for effect and reminding us that it’s been a long journey from first to last issue.
And everything that has made Blue Estate so enjoyable in its near-parody of pulp and celebrity is on full display in this final issue. Egotistic and helplessly stereotypical mobsters, sublimely comical violence and death, laundered money, private eye narration, police arriving as our hero and heroine make their escape…and Victoria and David Beckham.
It’s been a complex story to be sure, one that’s played out over 12 issues without any padding. Creator and artistic director Viktor Kalvachev and writer Andrew Osborne have filled each issue with so many pulp and noir clichés that it may take several reads to pick up all of the jokes. The complicated and intertwined relationships between all of the characters are a whirlwind of dialogue and plot details. Time and perspective have frequently changed and lapped each other. Keeping it all straight can be a challenge.
Aiding retention is the artwork directed by Kalvachev; it has been the standout since issue one. The series has used several artists, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox and Peter Nguyen among them, to convey changes in time and perspective. The consistency of the effort has held steady throughout, offering readers a chance to keep their balance as the carry the various plot threads around.
The change in art style from page to page lacks that jarring nature common with this technique. It certainly helps that Kalvachev has employed a unified color scheme to unite each artist’s work. Early on he primarily used blues and orange hues throughout. That palette expanded as the issues rolled on, and here in issue 12, the palette is still more expansive than those earlier issues, but the dominance of blue and orange over other colors is the primary scheme. That in and of itself returns us to the neatly wrapped up narrative idea, in this case it’s the visual narrative that brings us…closure.
Blue Estate is a perfectly balanced series, meeting expectations while at the same time exceeding them; the visual presentation keeping pace with the script, which is keeping pace with the trappings of fame and crime. It’s the characters, combined with the plot, complemented by the artistic direction that has made Blue Estate one of the best series of last year. Dun. Dun.