by Matt Kindt and Jason Hall
Top Shelf Productions
BW, 128 pgs, $14.95 US / Higher in Canada
This graphic novel was released in 2001, and soon after its debut, the big name critics like the folks from The Comics Journal were singing its praises. Pistolwhip and its sequel / follow-up tale Pistolwhip: The Yellow Menace, tossed creators Matt Kindt and Jason Hall into the limelight. Pistolwhip opened new doors for both of these talented guys.
The opening pages really floored me. A man wakes up to find himself in an old fashioned diving suit. You know, one of those big buggers with the metal helmet and the oxygen tube rising out of the top, snaking its way through the water to the boat where it is attached to a pump. The man wakes up in this suit, and finds himself under the water, surrounded by other men. These fellows are not in suits, at least not the diving sort. These guys are dead, floating in the water with concrete blocks attached to their feet. Up above on the deck of a fishing boat, two pirates wonder if the man below gets the message.
And that’s how we meet Mister Vogel. He’s a talented violinist, a hobo of sorts, on the run from town to town. He falls into a snare through no real fault of his own and gets tangled up in a plot that finds him trying to kill a woman named Charlie Minks.
Charlie is a master of guns, poison and subterfuge. She’s in the employ of the Human Pretzel. The Human Pretzel pulls the strings in this story and as he pulls, the players dance.
The fourth player in this play is Mitch Pistolwhip, a bellhop in a grand hotel that can only exist in a bygone era. He’s youthful, poor and a dreamer. He’s a wannabe gumshoe and takes the opportunity to don the fedora when it presents itself.
The creators cooked up a winding little mystery in this graphic novel. We see early on that Mitch, Charlie and Vogel have come together, facing off with guns drawn. Three shots ring out and then one by one, we come to see how these three strangers came to be together in the same room. It’s a well crafted play of seemingly chance events orchestrated by a sly puppet master. The motive of the holder of the strings is one that is odd, far-fetched and yet oh so wonderful to believe that it could ever possibly happen.
The art really goes hand in hand with the story of three lives drawn together toward one ultimate destination. The lines are rough, almost unfinished in their presentation. Mitch especially looks like he belongs in an artist’s sketchpad and not in a finished product. And yet Matt Kindt is able to show so much in these faces of few features, and bodies of slender lines.
Pistolwhip is the kind of book you can breeze through, but it’s also one you will revisit again and again, marveling at its minimalist style and its great moments of personal revelation and presentation. Pistolwhip is an attractive book in every sense of the word. (Chad Boudreau)