Review by Frank Plowright
Acts of Violence is a creditable crime anthology featuring four narratives from largely unknown creators. Four small publishing companies united to issue this reasonably priced book showcasing the best of their talent and if their output was all up to this standard, then they’re worth investigating further. The one unqualified success since is cover artist Fiona Staples.
The weakest story falls on the delicate art of Marvin Mann, which is by no means poor, but the scratchy style and lack of background never entirely conveys the emotional intensity Dino Caruso’s story requires. It spotlights an atrocity in a small community, then compounded in tragic fashion, but the framing sequence, intending to convey how an outsider is accepted, doesn’t convince.
The topic of vigilante justice is even more central to ‘The Orchard’, in which Damian Couceiro’s starkly contrasting shadows and light play to good effect in Ed Brisson’s story of guilt-motivated complicity. The storytelling is excellent, and Couceiro became a mainstay at Boom! Studios.
The criminals take the spotlight in the remaining contributions. The longest is the opener, detailing how three kids from fractured homes in the late 1920s progressed from idolising the local gangsters to numbering among them. Brazilian artist Manoel Magalhães adopts a more cartoony style than the other artists here, but conveys the gangster era of another country very convincingly, and it’s surprising he’s not progressed further since 2010. The same applies to writer Chad Boudreau, whose plot conceals its surprises, and delivers a subtle ending in 1941 contrasting the aspirations of the narrator with the knowledge of the reader.
‘Reggie-Town’ is an even more direct focus, on perennial loser Reggie, always promising that one last hit, then finally being offered some work that may pay enough to drag him away from his circumstances. Todd Ireland and Kevin Leeson collaborate on a taut first person script dragging Reggie through his delusions to the ghastly tipping point. Toren Atkinson’s loose art conveys Reggie’s dissolute life in suitably grubby manner.
This isn’t all quite professional work, but in most cases it’s not far off, and at only $9.95 for over 100 story pages you’d have to be an inveterate moaner to complain.