We Got Reviews: Killing Pickman

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Holy Hell, this is one of the more visceral reads i can remember out of my recent comics reading. This could have been written off as a hot mess of a book. Writer Jason Becker borrows from multiple sources. The title comes from a H.P. Lovecraft story. Jason Becker’s story is part dialogue is part cop drama, part Warren Ellis’ interpretation of cop dramas (including a familiar anti-CSI rant) part supernatural with more Lovecraft and other mythology thrown in. Jon Rea’s art shows shades of Ben Templesmith, a little Ted McKeever, and even Matt Howarth. With such a title choice, in a sense, unless there are m aster twists, the ending is somewhat alluded to. And the comic holds together. Somewhat shakily, but it holds.

Detective William Zhu “solves” his biggest case, arresting a child killer by going into the kidnapper’s house while going door to door. One might wonder why it even took this since the childkiller, named Pickman, seems to radiate evil. So much so that other characters, including professional psychiatrists, can’t even conceal their disgust for him. As the supernatural elements unfold, this does make sense. How much of Zhu’s decisions is otherworldly influence and how much is character motivation (including his decision to kill the killer)? This never gets fully defined to me, which could have been a flaw, but it seemed to work on me, as I was chomping at the bit to see whether and when Pickman, Zhu of any of the freaking main characters would die. It’s like I got caught up in the story’s own mania.

The characters also help carry a reader with some of the plot’s lack of clarity. Everyone in the story seems pretty well thought out, and Becker’s dialogue is genuinely funny in several spots, like the police chief’s translating the mystic chanting as racial slurs (well, it did borrow from Lovecraft). And of course Rea’s art, while incorporating several styles, did carry the implied emotional tone and tension. I want to see this paring put out something again, maybe with a more defined plot twist, which hopefully won’t lose the manic energy I found in these pages.

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About Chad Parenteau

I'm a poet. I run the Stone Soup Poetry series in Cambridge that runs every Monday night. I review comics in my spare time.
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