PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Comics

The Black Diamond #1-6

Isaac Kelley

It was less like a car chase, more like a train wreck.


The Black Diamond #1-6

Publisher: AIT Planet Lar
Contributors: Artist: Jon Proctor
Writer: Larry Young
Length: 32
Formats: Single Issues
Issues: 6
First date: 2007-05
Last date: 2007-12
cat_label_url
Amazon

The Black Diamond is an eight-lane superhighway elevated 150 feet above the ground, running straight across an America of the near future. There are no laws on The Black Diamond. This is the roadway for anyone who doesn't belong in polite society. It is across this chaotic backdrop of criminals, rebels, and reckless drivers that Doctor Don McLaughlin must tear through to get to his wife, who is caught between kidnappers and the U.S. Army. Don is nobody special, just a dentist, but he does have a sweet ride.

That is the set up of Larry Young's The Black Diamond. As far as high-concept premises go, this is pure, raw coolness. Anyone who doesn't think that this sounds like a cool story is someone who doesn't understand what the word "cool" is supposed to mean. The promise of The Black Diamond is the promise of barely contained chaos, of breakneck chases, of a world where speed is the only virtue. It promised to be Bullitt times Vanishing Point times Escape from New York. Sadly, the book just does not deliver on this promise giving us a script that is unfocused and art that is incomprehensible.

Young seems to have rejected the notion that a story about a lawless highway should be jam-packed with chases and crashes, preferring to fill the story with slow exposition and stilted political commentary. This story, about a man on a high-speed journey across his country, does not actually get around to showing a scene depicting the act of a car being driven until the third issue.

The story is frustratingly slow. The first five pages of The Black Diamond feature two characters playing a trivia game. This scene does nothing to establish the setting, or the characters. In fact, these characters aren't even important enough to have names, and never resurface after the initial scene. It is just mildly interesting dialogue, adding nothing to the story. Amazingly, this is followed up in the second issue by an equally dead-weight scene where characters work on solving a crossword puzzle.

Once the action finally starts in the third issue, the problems of the script become dwarfed by the problems of the art. Car chases have always been difficult subject matter for comics. A chase is, after all, about motion, and comic books are sequences of isolated moments. To tell a car-chase story, an artist with a knack for conveying the illusion of motion is required. Unfortunately, this book's artist, Jon Proctor, is spectacularly bad at it, a fact that becomes apparent as soon as elements of action are finally introduced to the story. His art simply cannot convey narrative events, which is of course, the whole point of a comic book. In The Black Diamond, there are pictures, and things are happening in the pictures, but it isn't at all clear what is going on.

Apparently the book's editor realized that the action was impossible to follow, because the action-intensive issues include a copy of the issue's script in the back. Without that script, these issues are little more than random pictures of cars blowing up. The problem is so pronounced, that the final scene of the story takes the extraordinary step of actually superimposing the script over top of the art.

Even without this bizarre juxtaposition, that final scene is just absurd. Having haphazardly built toward a violent confrontation between the Army and the gear heads, the sort that can only end in tragedy, it appears that the author has written himself into a corner. The resolution, such as it is, amounts to nothing more than a weak, metatexual pun. Roll credits. It was less like a car chase, more like a train wreck.

So, The Black Diamond is a sloppy, poorly paced story told by indecipherable art. Clearly the book is garbage, no? Well, maybe so, but despite the book's myriad flaws, I can help but love it a little. In part, that's due to the slam-bang brilliant premise. The concept of The Black Diamond makes me very happy, even if the story largely failed to deliver the goods.

Past that, I truly love the sense of style that went into this book. While the art is uneven and it spectacularly fails at telling a story, it does a great job of creating a deliciously moody atmosphere. The book is peppered with dozens of big spreads, full of gorgeous imagery of the road. Although frustratingly uneven, with much of the art resembling badly-traced photography, some pages are stunningly composed pictures evoking a '70s grindhouse sensibility. Throughout it all, Proctor gives us one of the best color palettes I've ever seen in a comic, all washed-out reds and yellows.

Fleshing out the stylish package, each issue has a backup feature by a different creative team, and while none of these are particularly good, neither are any of them bad. These stories all add color and depth to the world of The Black Diamond. Also, the covers are simply awesome, a masterpiece of graphic design.

The large doses of style and cool in this package make the book a neat artifact, despite the crap story. You don't read The Black Diamond so much as you soak in its atmosphere. That is almost enough for me to forgive the book for failing to be the full-on action story it should have been.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.