Newburn Volume 1
Chip Zdarsky, writer; Jacob Phillips, artist
Image Comics, 2022
Easton Newburn is a private detective who works to keep the peace between New York City's rival crime factions in this crime noir series. The details of that arrangement are revealed gradually at first. Initially we just know that he is a cold and efficient investigator, a former cop, and has some kind of arrangement with a police detective named Casey. He quickly gets to the bottom of the case he has been called to investigate, and in the process, he offers an assistant job to a young woman named Emily (one of the people involved in the case). The narrative is peppered with her journal entries, starting before we even know her real name. They provide an outsider perspective, before and after she starts working for Newburn.
Over the course of this collection Newburn makes himself useful to his clients in a variety of ways. He and Emily deliver the community activists who burned down a warehouse containing three million dollars' worth of heroin; solve the mystery of a serial killer selectively murdering members of several of the gangs; and Newburn even goes to prison to become friends with his cellmate, a former family member whose snitching got another family member killed. Another story goes into Emily's past history as a cop, which figures into one of their current cases.
Newburn is a fascinating character, and certainly a new kind of story for Zdarsky. He is a bit over the top, though: so hyper-efficient that he comes off as a kind of superhero--reminiscent of Donald Westlake's Parker, as adapted to comics by the late, great Darwyn Cooke. Fortunately, the character of Emily balances that out. Jacob Phillips is best known as colorist for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' recent crime noir comics. He is Sean's son, and his artwork here is somewhat reminiscent of his father's work. I look forward to seeing more from him, and from this series.
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