Review: Victorie City #1 (IDW Publishing)

Victorie City comes from writer Keith Carmack and artist Vincent Nappi, a gritty crime drama following a detective named Hektor Ness who finds that Victorie City’s police force has grown as rotten as its downtown criminal enterprises. It sounds pretty familiar, and for the most part, Victorie City #1 is a bundle of cliched ideas that are centered around a serial killer on the outskirts of the titular city. Carmack works with narration that borders on noir, developing Hektor into the headstrong good guy who won’t bow down to the corruption around him, and it’s aided by some heavy-stroked artwork from Nappi that lends some obscurity to the visuals. But in this premiere, Victorie City seems to be chasing the same tired crime story.

Carmack opens with his antagonist, first musing on infanticide in the animal kingdom and then murdering a couple in cold blood. The compelling start is segmented by the introduction of Hektor, something of a boring character who shares the same heroic civil duties as a number of other good cops in a world of bad ones. The problem isn’t that Victorie City fails to establish an original plot (truly difficult with so many crime releases coming out at all times); it’s that Carmack doesn’t do anything with his serial killer besides the killing. In a way, it leaves room for Victorie City to get to his motive later on, but it also fails to offer the reader anything useful to explain the murderer’s rant about infanticide at the beginning of the issue.

The choice to hone in on Hektor, instead, opens Victorie City #1 up to that criticism about it falling victim to the same tired tropes. Hektor’s a detective with a good woman at home who wants to do good, to follow in his father’s footsteps as an officer; he refuses to play by the same rules as the corruption in the city, and he won’t take his partner’s racket money. Carmack uses most of the issue to set this up, and there’s really nothing to distinguish Hektor from all of the other comic book characters with the same personality.

But at least Victorie City #1 already begins to move away from the structured investigation to which detectives working the beat have to adhere: sick of the corruption, determined to find the missing Cyndi Brown and at least bring her body home, he arrests his partner and strikes out on his own, even going so far as to pull a gun on a guy to get him to open his car trunk. The surprise at the end of this issue thankfully shakes things up, giving Victorie City a different direction that can set it apart from the pack.

Nappi’s artwork helps set the mood in this issue with broad dark strokes, and the varying color palette throughout provides a good change despite Victorie City’s dark atmosphere. The art does obfuscate, though, and some panels are difficult to make out amongst the darkness of the imagery.

Victorie City #1 has all of the requisite pieces of a gritty crime drama. But with so many comics working within the same subgenre, having the right ingredients doesn’t always make for a good read. Carmack and Nappi have done the groundwork with a generic first issue, but the next books will need to distinguish the series, or else risk Victorie City ending in defeat.

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