Review: 'Crude' #1 Surprises and Forces Some Soul-Searching

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(Photo: Image Comics)

Let me start with this copout: Crude is not the kind of comic that I would normally pick up.

Violent revenge fantasies with gritty, uncomfortable, true-to-live aesthetic don't appeal to me. I tend to gravitate toward inventive, vibrant, high-concept science fiction and fantasy, or quirky, irreverent, self-indulgent ridiculousness.

Aside from the art from Garry Brown — whom I've read multiple times and can appreciate, but have never really LOVED any of his series — I would likely walk past Crude on the shelf, rather than flip through a few pages.

But my snap judgements aren't infallible, and had I not been assigned this comic, I'd be missing out on something worth a closer look.

First of all, Brown and color artist Lee Loughridge work well together. In an era where many color artists have more of an impact of providing a comic's identity than the line artists or inkers, Loughridge's work continues to stand out. He provides the right exposure to each subject, darker values working with Brown's thicker lines to express regret, shame, and secrets.

His lighting for each scene works with the established color palettes, without a single garish hue in the first issue. It all layers well to convey a continually drab and depressing tale. With the turn of each page, it seems to get darker and darker, leading the reader down a rabbit hole and when they notice how far they've gone, it's impossible to crawl out.

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(Photo: Image Comics)

Brown, also, is deft in his figure work. The facial expressions and the body language are key in selling the story, and he utilizes simple yet effective layouts to convey the information. The pages never get crazy, which is why the story works so well. It's so personal that if they were to get inventive with how the information was conveyed, it would probably be detrimental to the narrative they're trying to convey.

And that's really what's so great about this story, is how well all pieces work together to convey a story about loss, regret, and understanding.

I've enjoyed Steve Orlando's scripts, particularly his run on Midnighter with DC Comics, and that's partially because of how he writes gay and bisexual men. Virgil was also a decent story, though it more read as a conventional MUST RESCUE MY KIDNAPPED SPOUSE story. This isn't John Wick or Taken, though it might share some themes in common. Loss exists at the surface, and though it digs deep, there are other terrors at work.

Crude feels like Orlando is tapping into a different portion of his writing sensibilities. And the art team is firing on all cylinders to take the story where it needs to go.

At its heart, Crude is about reconciliation, both within oneself and with family who have grown distant. But because this is a murder mystery, a happy ending is all but forbidden. Instead, we have a man not only having to deal with the fact that his son was murdered, but he seems to be coming to terms with the fact that he never really bothered to get to know who his child really is.

The first issue promises a lot more to come, but it sets out the mission statement effectively.

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(Photo: Image Comics)

While there are few fight scenes in the story, it does seem like the type that would forget action sequences for the sake of filling a few pages, and instead would show visceral, impactful violence as if it were meant to show the consequences of such actions, while also satiating that innate need for revenge. Of course, at this point, it's all speculation, but given the kind of comic Crude presents itself as, it would be disappointing to see it go in any other direction.

After reading the comic and feeling the different emotions tugged by the narrative, I can tell this is the type of comic that will resonate to me as a parent. I think that's what makes it effective, in that I connect to the narrative on a personal level, even if the specific circumstances don't apply to me. That's effective storytelling, and everyone on the team deserves a round of applause for making such an impact.

Published by Image Comics

On April 11, 2018

Written by Steve Orlando

Art by Garry Brown

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Colors by Lee Loughridge

Letters by Thomas Mauer