The line between parody and send-up is very fine. Image Comic’s Blue Estate has danced on that line for six issues, and with issue seven, the limited series takes that same line and twists it into a pretzel.
Blue Estate is an unabashed send up of crime fiction with a cinematic eye that stretches the conventions of comic book storytelling. It’s an adult comic written for a generation that has grown up with the films of Guy Ritchie, the novels of Elmore Leonard, but owes a great debt to the pulp masters of yesteryear. So the amount of tribute to those other forms and stories is well expected, but creator and artistic director Viktor Kalvachev adds a layer that can only be compared to type of understanding that comes from ingesting massive amounts of TMZ and E! True Hollywood Story.
With that as a base, Blue Estate weaves a complex story of Italian and Russian mobs, shady real estate deals, conniving Hollywood has-beens and inept detectives. It’s a long narrative meant to play out over 12 issues, but as a comic each issue must be a compelling chapter on its own. The serial nature of the medium, combined with the expectations of the audience, forces a creator’s hand to develop something that entertains in pieces and dazzles as a whole.
Issue seven presents Blue Estate’s most concise chapter. Most of the issue relies heavily on what has been previously established, but as a complete narrative, the issue is startling in its compactness. It also presents some of the biggest thrills and laughs of the series thus far.
Rachel Maddox’s brother Billy is being held by Italian mobster Tony because of a bad real estate deal. He wants compensation for the folly. Rachel reveals that her husband, has-been action star Bruce Maddox, controls all of her money. So Tony sends recovering alcoholic hitman – and Rachel’s sponsor – Clarence to take care of Bruce. But Bruce has been plotting with his bodyguard to eliminate Rachel, using inept detective Roy as a patsy.
Here, send up and parody are married, but not in contention of each other. As complement of each other.
The action plays out as conventionally as any story in this position. It’s the execution that sets Blue Estate apart, whereas the clichés of the genre have been exploited throughout, the build from issue one and the training of the audience to see how these clichés impact the overall expectations, pays dividends as plot revelations circle themselves to create a very enjoyable chapter.
Characters instigate some devilish behavior, but for all the violence, the narrative is quite funny. Much of that has to do with the concurrence of dialogue and artwork.
The artwork directed by Kalvachev has been the standout since issue one. He’s used several artists, Toby Cypress and Nathan Fox among them, to convey changes in time and perspective. The consistency of the effort has held steady throughout. 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.
Here the choppiness and oblong perspective of Rachel separates completely from the sharper view of Clarence. Each has their own part to play, and the artistic realization of their individual elements in the story helps seamlessly thread these stark narrative points. With so many characters, plot movements, motivations – the artwork of Kalvachev et al is notable for much, but mainly because it separates each piece without making completely separate from the whole. This is true of those parts, but also true of each individual chapter as a piece of the whole Blue Estate story.
Blue Estate #7 is perfectly balanced, meeting expectations while at the same time exceeding them. There is a certain amount of silliness in the issue, and that’s not a criticism as it’s perfectly within character for the limited series. And it’s the characters, who are well established, combined with the plot, that is complemented by the artistic direction, delivers the best issue of Blue Estate to date. Readers who have stayed with this book are fully aware of its excellence, but anyone who is on the fence has to be convinced by now – Blue Estate is one of the best comics going.