Dry County #1, the latest Image Comics title by Rich Tomasso, blends the autobiographical nature of indie comics with classic noir/crime elements to give the reader something unique and relatable.
Dry County #1
Written, Drawn, Colored and Lettered by: Rich Tomasso
Published by: Image Comics
Lou Rossi is a lonely young Generation Xer and newspaper cartoonist who plays amateur detective in order to find a missing woman he’s recently fallen hard for in late 1980’s Miami, Florida.
Dry County #1 doesn’t begin as a noir/crime story, but it definitely introduces those elements throughout, and fully embraces them by the end of the issue. At first, it reads more like the kind of autobiographical comics you would get from someone like Adrian Tomine or Daniel Clowes. And that is one of its greatest strengths. Protagonist Lou Rossi is a very relatable lead. His feelings of loneliness are something anyone who has lived a somewhat isolated life in a big city has felt. And Tomasso’s trick of using Lou’s journal entries (complete with legal-pad yellow line-paged backgrounds) adds another layer if identifiability on top. These are the elements that give it that ‘indie comics’ feel, and are what draws you in. Tomasso himself was a newspaper cartoonist (like Lou Rossi is in the book) and uses that as a good detail as well.
But Tomasso is a crafty creator, and the subtle introduction of noir elements (the ‘femme fatale’, the roguish sidekick/friend, the city almost as much a character as a setting) are worked in slowly but masterfully. By the last page, you are left with a perfectly blended comic book cocktail that packs the punch of a stiff drink.
Tomasso is an excellent cartoonist. His line work is thick and falls somewhere in between comic strips and comic books. Body language plays a huge role too; movements and expressions get as much across as the text and word balloons. He also plays with the layout and creates some really great pages that include circular panels and had written ‘journal’ pages.
The coloring stands out, using a bright palette of mostly primary colors to create the very recognizable atmosphere of Miami. A couple of scenes in clubs are perfect examples (you can see one below).
And if you are a fan of easter eggs and 80s pop culture references, you’ll see era-appropriate things like MTV’s 120 Minutes playing on TV, a Primus poster on a wall, or a character wearing a Social Distortion t-shirt. These things are drawn as PART of the story though and don’t take away or distract from the tale itself.
The lettering and word balloons are also quite good; font is clean and sharp without feeling like a computer typeface and word balloons vary in shape and size in order to convey tone and sound level.
Dry County #1 is unique and refreshing. It has the appeal of an indie comic and the draw, intrigue, and mystery of a crime/detective story. Comics is a medium were genres can be blended and mixed up to create new and interesting flavors and reactions. Make sure you order this book and your local comic shop and keep the tab open!