Lowlifes graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: IDW - 978-1-68405-376-6
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2019
  • UPC: 9781684053766
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

On looking at the credits it occurs that it’s surprising that there’s not been greater cross-pollination between American and European comic creators, although it does happen (see recommendations). Lowlifes matches American writer Brian Buccellato with artist Alexis Sentenac. Few of his graphic novels have been translated into English, but he has an impressive track record in France over a variety of genres, so illustrating the seedy sides of Los Angeles presents him with no problems.

As suggested by the title, Lowlifes is a crime drama centred around three main characters. Richard Grand is a fundamentally decent cop, but he’s still taking kickbacks to look the other way, paid by Wendall, a leading gangster. Leonard is a wild card, addicted and without any real hope, but still hanging on to the almost vanished chance of getting his wife back. When the rapist who attacked Richard’s wife grandstands about it, Richard feels he has no choice other than involving Wendall, and that kickstarts a lot of trouble for everyone.

IDW have published Lowlifes at album size, which is what Sentenac will be used to in France, but it’s a strange decision, as while Sentenac’s art is good, it’s not spectacular enough to make the extra size and cost desirable. He breaks down the story well, and the scene-setting pages have a serene beauty, also serving to punctuate the violence. However, when people are involved Sentenac isn’t as imaginative.

Buccellato’s plot is clever. He builds to a surprise, then relays the circumstances leading up to that surprise from another person’s viewpoint. It all slots together logically, with greater connections between the assorted cast members than first seems to be the case, and no-one is snow white.

For all the hard work put in, though, Lowlifes is disappointing as it only carries the story over four chapters, which isn’t enough to finish it, and so far there’s been no sign of a sequel. Should it manifest there’ll be a re-evaluation, but as it stands Lowlifes is a moody introduction, but no more.