Art and Story by Howard Chaykin
Lettering and Logo by Ken Bruzenak
Published by Image Comics
Howard Chaykin, before our comics were taken over by more thematically interesting and politically sharper Brit writers (But Howie led the way…), was and remains probably one of the best American comic writers/artists who has ever lived. Unfortunately, I really haven’t liked his work over the last 10 years or so. His work used to be groundbreaking but I can’t say that as of late. I also think Woody Allen’s last 20 or so movies aren’t as good as “Annie Hall” or “Manhattan” so there you go.
Chaykin’s “Black Kiss” was also one of his earlier better and frankly shocking efforts. Done in bloody black and white, full of pre-True Blood tranny vampires and weird sex (obsessive about fellatio…) and Catholic cults and private eyes and of course mobsters and crooked cops. Where we would be without the mobsters and crooked cops. I sometimes think that this book was an effort to break every rule possible, especially for 1988…published under some kind of Dare that Chaykin accepted and passed with flying colors. That book was taut and disciplined. Would be perfect for a film maker like Quentin Tarantino.
But what to make of Black Kiss Two? I don’t know. It didn’t do a lot for me. It’s drawn beautifully because, hey, its drawn by Howie Chaykin one of the best artists ever. It’s even lettered by Ken Bruzenak who did such a superb job of lettering “American Flagg” that it was an integral part of the artwork.
Here’s the first page of writing from Black Kiss 2 and you tell me. It takes place in New York 1906.
“The City swelters from the battery to Washington Heights…the heat raising a stench of rotting flora, dying fauna and sweating, fucking and shitting humanity…that seems to unite every neighborhood in an overwhelming effluvia of stink. The Burgers uptown…the ones who can claim to have found a foothold in the new world one, two, five, ten generations back…can fool themselves and their fellows that it’s the immigrants…the micks, the mockies, the dagos, the spics…who are stinking up the streets of little old New York. Complete and utter bullshit.”
Not exactly “A screaming came across the sky” or even “Dog carcass in alley…”
It has two parts, which I’m going to abridge in a way that some could liken to a violent rape, thus keeping in spirit with the tenor of the work. The first part deals with a theater in 1906 that turns a movie into some tranny satan winged multi cocked thing that steps out of the screen and proceeds to rape everyone in the theater. I can’t tell if they’re murdered or Changed or what. Here’s a disturbing not safe for work excerpt that will get you fired if your boss sees it. (Update: I was informed that we can’t show pics of this kind. There were complaints. You’ll just have to trust me, or go to my own Sodom and Gomorrah like site where there are no rules and decorum, and make little money…)
Part two deals with a shape shifting tranny vamp (again) on the Titanic and of course hilarity ensues. Or rape and murder.
I think this serves as a setup but beats me for what. There were two survivors, barely, from the first book. I had to reread it to get a feel for the plotting, although its deftly described over at Wikipedia (Or literary land of spoilers…) it doesn’t capture the jazzy density of the original book. Bottom line: three out of five stars. With shows like “True Blood” and “South Park” and the availability of 24 hour Internet fetish related porn at your greasy fingertips this stuff just doesn’t feel as shocking as it used to be. But I will read the next issue if I can get a hold of it. Its Howie Chaykin for goodness sake. He’s a legend. He just might not be as good as he used to be.
Related: Just for the record, here are some books I would get from Howie Chaykin before I bought “Black Kiss 2”. I actually would pick up the first “Black Kiss” comics, which I used to have separately and collected because it just seems to have caught Chaykin at the peak of his considerable powers. I would also look for the collected “American Flaggs” that Chaykin did, which were outstanding and took both comics and science fiction to another level. Not to mention that the very look of the book suggested the modern day Internet. You would do well to pick up any stray copies of his adaptation of Alfred Bester‘s “Stars My Destination” which featured one of the most interesting and faithful science fiction adaptations, ever. It certainly felt unabridged and was one of the first science fiction stories to dwell on the idea of people suddenly being able to teleport or “jaunt”. Really must reads for any serious lover of comics or science fiction.