Spoilers in review

Franklin City, the setting for David Lloyd’s gritty crime-noir thriller, Kickback, is the archetypal town without pity. Corruption is endemic, with the police as dishonest and murderous as the dealers from whom they take blood money. At the heart of this darkness we find a bent cop, Joe Canelli. Canelli is a man with a long-broken moral compass and Kickback follows his attempt to find a path to redemption. He is a deeply flawed character but one who Lloyd imbues with real emotional complexity. Canelli must lay all on the line, confronting his buried and traumatic past in a quest to atone for his sins. The catalyst for this redemptive journey is the massacre of a drug gang which pits the cop against gangster, our antihero caught squarely in the middle in an intelligent, well paced drama.

The story begins with a striking dream, rendered in deep shades of blue. Lloyd presents the reader with a naked figure trapped within a symbolical cobweb of ironwork. This is Canelli, burdened by the weight of his own corruption. This evocative dream-like quality permeates the story and Lloyd’s smoky art suits the noirish nature of the tale to perfection. Lloyd, both writer and artist on this project, is never afraid to experiment with page layout, tailoring the size and number of the panels on each page to suit the nuances and pacing of the story. His use of symbolism is frequently bold, but can, at times, verge on the subliminal. This serves to enrich and enhance the reading experience and it may well take more than a single reading to appreciate all Lloyd has built into his text.

Lloyd’s complex characterisation is used to explore themes of regret, redemption, human weakness and the possibility of salvation. This graphic novel boasts an intelligent and layered narrative which is unafraid to explore complex ideas. Lloyd is best known for his work on V forVendetta but Kickback serves to remind us that he more than simply an artist – he is a born storyteller. This little gem deserves to find greater appreciation and a wider readership.