Review by Frank Plowright
Jean-Luc Broussard is a hitman. His jobs are supplied by an anonymous broker, and he carries them out efficiently, but for his latest assignment he needs back-up and a distraction. Enter the peppy Linda.
So what’s the devil’s concubine? It’s the holy grail of drugs, offering a perfect high, a plant extract that every dealer wants, and which Jean-Luc apparently now has. As he and Linda attempt to offload it, they’ve become targets not only for the gangster Latour, from whose men it was stolen, but the police investigators on their trail and a group of Rastafarians.
Palle Schmidt’s art is great. Jordi Bernet, Frank Miller and Eduardo Risso are all influences, but these coalesce into a loose individual style, very kinetic and individual. Unlike his influences, Schmidt prefers to view his characters full body from a distance, which leads to a multitude of detailed panels packed with low life as Jean-Luc and Linda go about their bloody business. A bonus section shows his design sketches for the main cast, and they’re all distinctive and rich in personality, generating an emotional response commensurate with their nature.
Schmidt likens The Devil’s Concubine to a Hong Kong action movie, and it certainly has that mood, what with two characters in way above their heads skating through one lethal scenario after another. The protagonists are a classic mismatched pair, Jean-Luc on some level having an awareness, but the younger Linda far more impulsive and prone to taking a match to the kerosene just for the sake of it, escalating a bad situation into something worse with no concern for consequences. Her random factor supplies the story with tension during slower moments. To be fair to Schmidt, there aren’t many of these, although he does often concentrate too long on the action without moving the plot forward, extending some scenes beyond their natural lifespan. It would work on screen, but has a lesser impact on the printed page. The police characters are also under-developed, given some good lines and present during a pivotal explanation scene, but their purpose is to facilitate a police presence in the finale, and they never grip as they should.
The ending will surprise, and there’s a fantastic epilogue, both raising what’s otherwise not quite matched the potential. The Devil’s Concubine is good, just not quite as good as it might have been. Schmidt, however, is a creator to watch.