About two weeks ago, DC Comics announced that Chip Zdarksy will be writing Batman come July. And while that comic will undoubtedly be good, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need it. You want a Zdarsky-written noir starring a troubled detective navigating a messed-up, crime-ridden city? Then you should just be reading Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips’s Newburn.
Newburn is the story of a private detective whose only clients are New York City’s crime families. In the latest issue (4, as of this writing), New York’s police union forces Newburn to investigate the death of one of their own, which was likely caused by a member of the aforementioned crime families. As you’d expect, things quickly get complicated, tense, and just a bit violent.
What really makes Newburn compelling, though, is not the book’s plot or action. Instead, it’s watching each story unfold through the eyes of Newburn’s new partner-in-criminal-on-criminal-crime, Emily.
For example, Newburn‘s data pages are written from Emily’s point of view, which is decidedly different than Newburn’s. Also, we never get to look inside Newburn’s head. Instead, we are forced, alongside Emily, to watch him and guess at his motivations and actions. This makes each issue’s twists and turns that much more surprising.
Of course, a noir comic can only ever be as good as its art. In noir, especially, art conveys atmosphere and character. It determines how completely you can fall into a story.
Thankfully, Jacob Phillips’s art, colors, lettering, and y’know, everything else is perfect for Newburn. It grounds the story in a world that looks real but is slightly heightened, thanks to Phillips’s painterly colors and animated characters and action sequences. Newburn is one of the prettiest-looking noir comics I’ve ever read, which is a weird compliment, but is definitely meant to be taken as one. If someone has ever told you a bittersweet story, Newburn looks like that.
Newburn also comes packaged with a backup story, by Nadia Shammas, Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub, and Frank Cvetkovic, about two estranged brothers who may be on the verge of making amends. While this story does not (yet) tie into Newburn‘s larger plot, it is still quite compelling, especially now that it has had enough room to breathe and engage in some twists and turns of its own. By the end of the latest chapter, you will believe a man can be blackmailed into hosting a family dinner, and that it really matters.
So yes, you could start reading Zdarksy and Jorge Jiménez’s Batman come July. Or, you could start reading Newburn now(!) and get on the ground floor of an original story that promises to be a noir classic, with fantastic art AND a great backup story. No pressure or anything, but I know which one I’m doing.