Maybe NYPD Blue did it best, in those days Back When. At least Blue did it better than Homicide: Life on the Streets, when the two seemed in competition for the gritty-realism-brought-to-TV crown. It was that sense of the panoramic, but a panorama forced outwards to the edge of the scene. Each crime scene the intrepid detectives from the 15th found themselves investigating would be subjected to a panning shot, and usually thereafter a tracking shot or two to follow the detectives thru the same scene. Certain things would always hit. The old lady in her robe and slippers smoking, or maybe the Korean bodega owner, or maybe the homeless guy with the shiny, new watch.
It was a visually evocative, and ultimately, a beautiful way to tell a story. And in the Fall of 92, and for nearly every year later for a decade, it became a wonderfully elegiac way to shot New York, one that infused the TV show with that quintessential urban energy of the place itself. In the thousands of scenes that comprise the entire 12 seasons of NYPD Blue, the map and the territory become one.
There’re couple of lessoned to be hewed from the rough rock of art, here. But who am I to decide which might be more meaningful for you? Maybe it’s the lesson that the obvious always happens at the edge of your field of vision. Maybe it’s the insight that even the cops’ stories that play out directly in front of you, are every bit as marginal as the stories of those skells and hustlers and hardworking, decent Americans you see standing on the margins of the shot.
Whatever the lessons may be, they’re honest truths. And not quite a decade later, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso and Patricia Mulvihill took the same tactics at play in NYPD Blue and elevated it to an artform in the medium of comics. The story of Agent Graves and his genius-level tactical mind, and his near-surgical dismembering of the Trust didn’t seem nearly as interesting as the story of a Detroit gambler who was framed for murder by his closest friend, or any of the thousand other small-change crime stories in 100 Bullets.
And now, not quite half a decade on from the closing curtain of the original series, Brian, Eduardo and Patricia return to effect that same kind of magic. And added into the mix this time? The kernel of a story about the price of America’s geopolitical ascendancy. The price not for itself, but one paid it’s closest neighbor to the south.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of 100 Bullets: Brother Lono #4.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.