The world has seemed a bit unreal as of late. Recent events have lead us to question many of the truths and values we hold dear. Surely this can’t be how things are supposed to be? None of this can be happening by chance. There must be some grand puppet-master orchestrating the course of everyday life or at least, that’s what we’d like to believe. The Broker is a book that revels in that old Heller-esque idea that it’s not paranoia if they really are after you.
Rogue Comics are a Dublin-based Comics Imprint, the latest to emerge from the highly active Irish small press scene. Piloted by the team of Wayne Talbot and Ciaran Marcantonio, their goal is simply to produce quality comic books. The Broker is the first project published under the label and comes to us courtesy of writer-colourist: Wayne Talbot, artists: Ruairí Coleman and Brian Corcoran, and colourist: Timothy Brown with lettering by Miriam Abuin.
The history of The Broker is interesting of itself. The first ten-pages were originally published as part of the Lightning Strikes anthology series with Talbot in charge of writing duties and Coleman on art backed up by Brown on colours. The story’s serialised release ended there with a confluence of factors leading to the story being turned into a one-shot self-published work. Coleman and Brown were unable to return, so Talbot turned to Corcoran for the interiors and elected to colour the book himself. As such, the artwork changes for the remaining twenty or so pages. Rather then pull the reader out of the experience, it extenuated the dual, interlinked narratives being told within. As one character’s story ends and another’s begins, the artwork shifts along with our perspective in a way that adds to the story.
Talbot presents us with a crime thriller centred around a vast political-conspiracy involving corrupt police, a disgruntled stockbroker and an army veteran attempting to piece together the events that claimed her brother’s life all while a mysterious figure playing chess with the lives of men. Make no mistake, this a book that has its finger on the pulse of contemporary politics. While originally written before the Trump era, it was eerily prophetic and the result is very much a tale of its time . The idea of “fake news” is explored in an interesting way that posits that the real threat aren’t the lies, but the manufactured truths used to justify the ends of certain elites. In the world of The Broker, technology and social media may allow for greater connectivity, but they can be manipulated to serve the interests of those in power. Whether its kicking up anti-banker sentiment or engineering mass protests, the book acts a wake up call for those who place too much emphasis on the supposed truth found within. The person who controls your news-feed, controls your very perception. The mystery at the heart of the book is who has the power to do such a thing, what they might benefit from it and more importantly, what would you do if you knew? Its hefty subject for any writer to tackle, let alone for their first comic, but Talbot impresses in his debut and shows that he is more than up for the task. In many ways, he channels Le Carré in providing a story that isn’t afraid to make you uncomfortable or leave you with a swift punch to the gut.
Corcoran’s interiors are nothing short of a treat shifting from moments of subtle reflection to high-octane action. Realism has been the subject of much unjust critique in comics as of late, but The Broker‘s grounded nature requires such an approach and Corcoran’s beautiful line work is enough to quieten any naysayer. A playful use of panel structure allows the story to flow seamlessly and provide some increasingly tense moments. Something as simple as a sniper aiming his pistol turns into an exhilarating moment of adrenaline-fuel reading as the would-be hit man zooms in on his target. The action compliments the story’s more considered moments and gives Corcoran an opportunity to flex his artistic muscles. There is a joy in the destruction that this artist leaves in his wake after every fight scene. Its often brutal, but always compelling. Clever uses of news-clips and social media posts throughout the book showcase some wonderfully innovative methods of storytelling acting almost as a modern update to the talking heads of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.
Talbot’s colouring really adds to the book’s unsettling atmosphere and becomes a character in its own right. Without delving into spoilers, a dream sequence from mid-way through the comics leads to some haunting visuals that simply wouldn’t hit as hard in the hands of a lesser colourist. The Broker understands the importance of colour in invoking certain emotions in the reader and playing them like an instrument. It’s easy to see Talbot’s animation background at work with scenes as vibrant or as subdued as they need to be. The advent of the writer-colourist has been a long-time coming, but this book shows why those two roles blend so well together. The line-work may tell us the story, but the colours tell us how to feel. Who better to do so than the writer?
The Broker reminds us of why we love crime thrillers and their ability to speak to the issues of our time. The creative team have created something really special. It’s clear that they had fun putting this all together from the original ten-page story to the appropriately awesome playlist printed on the back-cover to compliment your reading. The book launched earlier this month at Dublin Comic Con and its first printing sold out entirely, an impressive feat for any creator let alone first timers. With a second printing in the works, this book is certain to bolster the reputation of the fledgling Rogue Comics which promises much more to come over the next year. You’d be mad to miss it.