13 Feb 2013

Graphic Perception: SWERVE

Writer: Jon Judy
Art: Dexter Wee & Chris Hall
Arcana Studios $19.95

Matt C: I do love a good rough and ready crime tale, and while I don’t have a problem with the tried and tested clich├ęs being trotted out (as long as they're handled well) if a writer can tell a familiar story in a not-so-familiar environment, that often sweetens the deal considerably. In Swerve, Jon Judy weaves a tale set in the world of mid-‘70s pro-wrestling, where what occurs behind the scenes is a bit more deadly than what happens on the mats.

Eric Layton is our hero here, a kid who makes all the wrong decisions for all the right reasons, getting dragged further into a confluence of drugs and murder at the behest of his increasingly unhinged boss, Tony Frank. It’s a narrative arc that most people who’ve had even a minor dalliance with the crime genre are familiar with, watching an essentially good guy getting into deeper water, to the point where there’s no turning back. Judy keeps things edgy and visceral, with the constant threat of explosive violence always running in the background. The dialogue’s tight and to the point, and when the shocks hit, they hit hard thanks to the judicious pacing and some stark, punchy and often brutal artwork from Wee.

If there’s one that’s missing, and it’s a fairly strange absence if you think about it, it’s the lack of any real wrestling action. Considering this is the legitimate industry all these guys are operating in, it would perhaps have been a smart move to show how they act in the ring rather than just outside of it. Perhaps it prevents any extraneous subplots clogging up the main narrative, allowing for more focus, but it does serve to make the tale a little less distinctive (although I can see that it may prove difficult to convey the thudding, pantomime violence of the sport in the sequential art format). The denoument did feel a touch convenient and rushed, but the rainswept imagery more than made up for it.

Quibbles aside though, this is a tough, violent and compulsive read, and even though it’s one that’ll take you down paths you’ve travelled before, it does so with a gripping tenacity that really impresses. 8/10

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