The Fall

I find myself in sympathy with Ed Brubaker, who has expressed the idea that while there are many crime comics, there aren’t enough mystery comic books. The Fall nicely addresses that lack, providing a thriller that kept me wondering what would happen next. Best of all, after I’d found out, I wanted to read it again to see how all the pieces went together.

A woman is thrown from a deserted highway overpass. Nine years later, a man finds her purse and begins investigating what happened to her. These characters are nuanced and flawed without descending into noir clichés. Instead of the usual “mean streets of the city”, this story could take place in any suburb.

The Fall cover
The Fall

Kirk, the investigator, works at a service station. His life changes the one night he succumbs to temptation by committing a small theft that he thinks no one will find out about. This theme, that you can’t hide from the truth, is expected in a story about a long-hidden murder coming to light, but there’s still a certain moral appreciation to watching him atone for his misdeeds. His petty transgression is understandable, even sympathetic.

Pages with many smaller panels make the book feel longer than it is (although at 48 pages, it’s substantial). Lutes is quite talented with the telling head shot, keeping the conversations going through expression and gesture. He also provides detailed settings and scene changes. This tale was earlier published in serialized form in Dark Horse Presents, but if the publicity hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. The scenes shift appropriately without obvious breaks or cliffhangers. This collected edition has had new scenes and an expanded ending added as well.

The title started me thinking. Obviously, the story’s set in the fall, since we see Kirk raking and burning leaves, and it’s also a reference to the woman’s fall from that highway overpass. Yet there’s also an autumnal feeling to the book, an unhurried, reflective approach. Kirk’s not only looking back on the victim’s life, but his own, and that of someone else as well.

As expected in this kind of story, Kirk’s a lonely guy; if he gets into trouble, no one might miss him. He puts himself in that state, though. Unlike in other stories, the tempting woman who makes him an offer he can’t refuse is a housewife, and there’s no sex involved. These minor twists on the conventions of the genre help keep the story fresh.

I would have liked to have known a little more about some of the other characters; we get a good idea of Kirk, and June (the housewife) is understandable even if her background is a little reliant on shorthand, but the missing woman and her sister are sketchy. Overall, though, it’s an entertaining read that fits the genre without being too faithful.

To see samples of Lutes’ artwork, visit the Drawn & Quarterly website. He has written and drawn Berlin: City of Stones, the first volume of a historical trilogy about the city in 1929, and Jar of Fools, about a washed-up magician and his mentor.

The writer, Ed Brubaker, has a website. He has also written Scene of the Crime, an Eisner-nominated mystery illustrated by Michael Lark; Sleeper: Out in the Cold, a superhero noir about spies and traitors illustrated by Sean Phillips; and Gotham Central, stories of the cops in Batman’s city, co-written with Greg Rucka.

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