The Black Diamond Detective Agency
First Second Books
Writer: Eddie Campbell
Art: Eddie Campbell
FC 142 pgs
$16.95 US / Higher in Canada
“A tale so filled with twists, turns, and heart-stopping thrills, that its telling is best experienced through the modern wonder of the graphical narrative.”
Eddie Campbell tells a rousing tale of murder, mayhem, mystery and conspiracy set in late 1800’s just at the turn of the century in the good ole US of A. The story is pure, hard boiled pulp and that’s the way I like them. A train is blown up in the middle of a small town. Its mysterious cargo is stolen. The Black Diamond Detective Agency was hired to protect the cargo along with the Secret Service but they aren’t being told too much. Their only suspect, a man named John Hardin, manages to escape their custody. The detectives, lead by their boss, Mr. Quindlin, try to get to the bottom of the case.
As Hollywood continues its massive rape of the modern comic book, it’s interesting to note this story actually started out as a screenplay written by C. Gaby Mitchell, whose short movie resume includes contributing to the screenplay for Blood Diamond. The screenplay was sold to William Horberg who has produced such movies as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Heaven, The Quiet American and Cold Mountain. Horberg decided the story was good but unlikely to ever get made into a movie so he shopped it around as a potential comic book and First Second Books picked it up. They offered it to Eddie Campbell who agreed to make it into a comic as long as First Second would publish his Fate of the Artist.
They published it last year and so this year Campbell did Black Diamond. It’s an interesting state of affairs when it’s more likely that a screenplay can get made into a comic rather than being made into a movie. What does that say about the current state of the movie industry? Anything original they won’t touch? Well that’s nothing new, but with the way Hollywood keeps strip mining comics, adding the now annoying based on a graphic novel in the trailers, it’s only a matter of time before someone decides this story might have been good enough for the screen and as a selling point they can add “based on a graphic novel” to the promotional material.
Told in Eddie Campbell’s own striking style and in full colour, this is a highly enjoyable read. While it may have been somebody else’s screenplay, Campbell makes this story his own, putting his indistinguishable signature on it. And while there are people out there that continue to confuse comic books for movie storyboards, Campbell makes sure this is no storyboard. This is graphic literature at its best. The train blowing up sequence and the subsequent follow up are so beautifully rendered that it wouldn’t work as well as a moving picture in my opinion. And while it’s no Alec, Bacchus or even From Hell, it’s still a damn good read. (Shane Hnetka)