Comics

Garden State Greaser Noir in 'Iron Bound'

Most of the action in Brendan Leach's graphic novel, 'Iron Bound, boils over with smashed car fenders and swollen knuckles in Newark, New Jersey.


Brendan Leach

Iron Bound

Publisher: Secret Acres
Length: 252 pages
Author: Brendan Leach
Publication date: 2013-09
Amazon

Set in switchblade-sharp, scratchy line work and brash dialogue, Iron Bound is a breathless run through Garden State dive bars and half-empty bowling alleys. Brooklyn comics artist Brendan Leach has a New Jersey suburbs background that he ties into mangled knots with this bulky black and white pulp for NYC publisher Secret Acres, name-dropping favorite shore-town watering holes and working-in affectionate renderings of classic boardwalk landmarks where possible. He winds the clock back to 1961 and follows a pair of biker jacket-clad hoods out for a quick buck as they advance up and down the Jersey turnpike in city buses or stolen cars.

Most of the action in Iron Bound boils over with smashed car fenders and swollen knuckles in Newark, specifically in the neighborhood for which the book is named, an area east of downtown, where lower-rung gang kids make collections for a man they call Mr. Dores. Lamps perched atop wobbly, sketchpad-esque posts dot the city's empty streets in Leach's graphic novel, with rain and transmission fluid puddling in front of apartment buildings that look as if they're held together with tape. Staff at the grandiose Paramount Theater screens the new Clark Gable film for hordes of teen girls, while the artist's greaser toughs prowl Market Street in their hulking late '50s Plymouth Belvedere.

With a harrowing 20 percent of Newark's modern-day gang killings owing to drug deals, the city is bleak enough on its own, but the heat in Iron Bound eventually spills into similarly troubled central Jersey coastal town Asbury Park, where a real-life murder-fueled drug trade -- tucked away from the now-tidy, picturesque boardwalk -- garnered the city a second place position on the list of New Jersey's violent crime-riddled towns in 2012 (topped only by Camden). Leach plants goons Eddie and Benny on boardwalk benches, which always seem to lend a sinister atmosphere to the setting of a crime story -- from publisher Vertigo alone, see Seaside Heights in David Lapham's Silverfish or Coney Island in Kevin Baker's Luna Park. Near the iconic Wonder Bar's front door, Leach's thugs wait for the ideal time to pounce on barkeeps for Dores's protection money.

There mostly isn't room for Iron Bound's broken-down hoods to evolve in the book. We get the sense that there's hope for Eddie, but Leach doesn't lend any pages to character back-stories. Everyone is fittingly little more than a sketch, with their motives as paper-thin as the busted neon signs that dangle over the novel's taverns. Rodent-faced Benny Chagas is the least cool-headed of the pack, as he hassles passers-by for no real cause and needs little reason to slip his car keys between his fingers or draw his knife and start swinging.

Outside of the tense flashbacks (in which Leach breaks from harsh blotting and smearing to cushion with blurry greys), where ill-fated conversations grow less controlled with each panel, Iron Bound's brawl scenes are among the book's best-told moments. The punch-ups are crazed and somewhat fragmented, with the artist's aggressive strokes -- not unlike Jeff Lemire's in Lost Dogs -- setting an air of chaos, if also presenting a less than clear picture.

Leach uses tightly closed spaces well in establishing angst and alienation, and Benny's temper explodes on a bus, in dark, cramped bar rooms, and more. All of Iron Bound's grit and grease makes for a fast read, as this grainy-paged pulp speeds down the turnpike toward its inevitably bleak showdown.

Preview Brendan Leach's 'Iron Bound' and purchase a copy at Secret Acres.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image