Black Charity

Writer / Artist
Black Charity
Black Charity graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Archaia - 978-1-93639-329-9
  • Release date: 2012
  • UPC: 9781936393299
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

When Charlie moves into a new flat his neighbours are an eccentric and individual bunch. Duncan is plain off his trolley, although considerate enough to clean away the dog shit from the street so blind Thomas doesn’t walk through it. The old lady next to Charlie dies and her belongings are auctioned, while Charlie himself regrets the break-up of his last relationship, but happily gets off by peeking through his window into Polly’s flat from where she runs a domintrix business.

Bal Speer supplies Charlie as a hapless loser, and life for him doesn’t improve in his new surroundings. Being beaten up early on eventually becomes the least of his worries, as Speer takes a morbid delight in turning the screw on him.

There’s no doubting Black Charity as a noir thriller as Speer positively slathers the black ink all over the pages, dark deeds given a twilight turn. Speer tends to pose people as if caught in snapshots in preference to moving them from panel to panel, but it’s a system that works for this story, although he’s eccentric when it comes to facial shadow, and darkness substitutes for backgrounds. Still, it has an effect when an assassin modelled on Nick Cave emerges from it.

The multiple narrative voices combine to build a complete picture for the reader invited to share the thoughts. It’s a smart device that might have been improved by supplying a different colour for each individual’s narrative box. At times Speer overlays one person’s narration over the doings of another, and this can cause confusion, but he also uses the narrative boxes to tell some disturbing tales.

Eventually the residents of 23 Swann Drive are all cleverly connected, and the story becomes one of the lengths some believe the British establishment would go to in order to protect their own, no matter what they’ve done. When all seems to be heading to a predictable ending, Speer has a final good surprise to drop. Charlie and company are stylised and not always consistent, but they’ll worm their way into your head if you give them a chance.