Comics

The Black Diamond Detective Agency

William Gatevackes

The two-lane highway between comics and Hollywood takes a divergent turn as an unproduced screenplay is adapted for comics by a master.


The Black Diamond Detective Agency

Publisher: :01 First Second Books
ISBN: 1596431423
Contributors: Adapted from a Screenplay by: C. Gaby Mitchell
Price: $16.95
Writer: Eddie Campbell
Length: 144
Formats: Graphic Novel
US publication date: 2007-05
Website
cat_label_url
Writer website
Amazon

A busy, two-lane highway of sorts has built up between the world of comics and the world of Hollywood filmmaking. Film properties as famous as Star Wars and as obscure as Buckaroo Banzai have made their way to comic store shelves.

In recent years, there has been a steady spate of reverse traffic with comic properties such as Spider-Man, X-Men, 300 and many more adapted for the screen. More comics are set to join them every year.

So symbiotic is the relationship between Hollywood and comic books that something like The Black Diamond Detective Agency was bound to happen. The graphic novel is adapted from an unproduced screenplay of C. Gaby Mitchell (one of the writers of the movie Blood Diamond) and is written and painted by comic legend Eddie Campbell.

The story is set at the end of the nineteenth-century and revolves around a man named John Hardin. Hardin is a man with a secret past who has started life in a new town. Unfortunately, that life has come to an end as Hardin is framed for blowing up a train. The act of destruction is investigated by the notorious Black Diamond Detective Agency, an organization known for always getting their man, no matter at what cost. Hardin must find out who set him up all the while avoiding the detectives who are on his tail.

The plot is your typical conspiracy pot-boiler, the kind that tries to be convoluted enough to keep you guessing throughout, but simple enough that all the pieces fit together in the end. Overall, it succeeds, but there are missteps along the way.

The pacing is breakneck, with a lot of information thrown at us in quick succession -- one plot point after another. There is a barebones storytelling at work here to facilitate the speed of the story. This means that some twists and turns come off as a little confusing. A character is first introduced then gruesomely killed off in the span of seven pages. The scene does establish an important plot point, but we learn very little about the character and who actually kills him could be lost on the no-so-careful reader.

Some more time could have been devoted to fleshing out the relationships between the characters. The love Hardin has for his wife is a great motivating force for his character, but outside of a few lines of dialogue we don't see it. Hardin also mourns the death of a supporting character but nothing we have read that far tells us why he feels the need to do so.

The pacing also affects the dialogue. The scripting is wordy and exposition-laden. Conventional wisdom states that comics, and movies, since this is adapted from a screenplay, should be show-and-not-tell. But in both media there are constraints, be they page counts or running time, that sometimes are pre-ordained. If you don't have time to show your audience the events that move your plot along, then you must tell them.

That would be the major fault of The Black Diamond Detective Agency. It seems that Campbell and/or Mitchell (because, without seeing the original screenplay, it is not always clear what Campbell changed in the adapting and what he left the same) felt the pressure to tell their story in a restricted amount of time. Everything you need to know to understand the story is there. They do paint the picture they want to, with as few brush strokes as possible, but it would have been nice to see some shading around the edges.

The art is up to Campbell's usual high standards. It is painted in a rough hewn style which fits the subject matter and setting nicely. He takes great pains to establish distinctive looks for each character, which in this type of story with this many characters is absolutely vital. Due to the style of painting, some of this detail is lost in crowd scenes but not so much that you can't tell who is who.

Campbell also does well in capturing the era, which is not surprising because the time period is only a decade after the one that From Hell was set in. And he doesn't shy away from showing gore. The bloodiness is not gratuitous and drives home the point of the violent lifestyles of the characters, but the squeamish should be warned.

All in all, The Black Diamond Detective Agency is a good read. But it would have been much better if the story had a chance to slow down and catch its breath.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


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.