[7 May 2012]
PopMatters Associate Comics Editor
Blue Estate has hit its penultimate issue, and the series that has cemented itself as a modern pulp noir with the right touch of Hollywood salaciousness adds yet another layer to its already mesmerizing tale. For all the violence in this action packed issue, for all the mobsters and dimwits, what the eleventh and near-final issue presents is a fairytale where the starlet princess is rescued by the AA assassin prince charming.
Rarely does the cover to a comic incite a direct interpretation of a work. This is especially true when dealing with such divergent literary forms as fairytales and pulp crime dramas, but in the case of this issue of Blue Estate the cover spells out clearly how we are to view the story within. Our heroine Rachel is sleeping and Clarence (or Johnny) is her prince arrived just in time to wake her from the evil all around. To borrow a pun, everything is very Grimm.
Just about anyone can rattle off the elements that make fairytales a distinct genre within the folktale tradition. So too can just about anyone detail the elements that make a pulp distinctive. When we usually see two genres mixed together, the modern mash-up is the result. Here that is simply not the case. What this issue does is present the tried and true narrative action of crime dramas, but with a soft lens that allows us to see the plot play out as a near folktale.
Rachel is caught between the warring Russian and Italian mob factions. So too is dimwitted private eye Roy. Their movements from uninformed to informed characters have been nearly parallel. Here they separate, if for only the clear connection between Rachel and Clarence, who has been sent to kill every Russian in sight.
The result is a symphony of violence and gun play. The body count is high as Clarence rather unknowingly takes on the role of hero to the rescue. Rachel has been our damsel in distress on many occasions, but here that role is more overt. In previous issues she has been the heroine, manipulating things as best she can and as best as any female character in a pulp story can. With stakes ever higher, and the violence so intense, her lack of professional killer credentials puts her squarely in the role of princess to be rescued.
It actually fits, which is a testament to the type of story Viktor Kalvchev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne et al have crafted. She, as the actress, can take on whatever role suits her predicament. The other characters have less ability to do that. Tony is through and through the clown. Roy is always the fool. Don Luciano is the authority. Vadim and Sergey are the monsters. And Clarence is the cool headed professional. They each have their parts to play in this multilayered story, and Osborne as script writer has fleshed them out thoroughly.
The artwork and panel layouts are at their most traditional. While we still have the alternating artist technique to show shifts in perspectives, the degree has lessened. The story is nearly as straightforward as any comic book tale, with each panel reflecting that movement. In previous installments it was necessary to keep the story in perspective(s), but here it would be a complete waste and tantamount to a disjointed issue. Blue Estate has been cut in pieces, but it has always been sewn together evenly. The uniformed color work Kalvchev has done for ten issues prior pays off in the climax of these dozen chapters.
We’ve had cliffhangers in this series before, but nothing as dramatic and intense as where this next to last chapter ends. One bullet short. The Hollywood homage is as it should be.
This is also the place where our fairytale shifts back to what exactly Blue Estate is: an E! True Hollywood Story inspired noir. The reasoning from a narrative perspective is fairly obvious; the decision to present that shift in the final page is rather clever. Allow the genre adjustment to happen prior to the final chapter so that it flows as naturally as the story has since issue one. Blue Estate has been one of the best comic series in recent memory, and issue eleven confirms that assessment. Next: the gritty ending.