"It's filler, filler night..."
Well, you knew somebody was gonna use that joke eventually, so why not me?
Anyway, the latest offering from AiT/PlanetLar is called FILLER, and it's a noirish tale of a fellow named John Dough (ouch) who passes the time and makes a living by standing in police lineups, selling plasma, and generally plugging up one of the many cracks in the cold, hard city. Then, one evening his life changes forever when he encounters a hooker with a black widow spider tattooed on her belly. Of course, the most obvious comparison to make, especially at this moment in time, is that this is just a knockoff of Sin City or even 100 Bullets- but that's both true and not true. Sure, this occupies the same territory, but writer Rick Spears and artist Rob (Couriers) G don't give us the pervasive cynical negativism that Frank Miller brings to nearly everything he does, and that's a big plus for me. Still, John's situation ends up reminding us of Marv and Goldie, and the events depicted certainly do follow that bloody-noir template.
Story-wise, Spears does pretty well with dialogue, and he doesn't succumb to the temptation of trying to give us that standard overheated Spillane-ish narration. Everything is pretty much to the point, and I liked that. Even though the story itself isn't the freshest thing in the world, it only gets a little out-of-control at the end (I'm sorry, but any plan that involves self-mutilation is just not a viable option) and is exactly one page too long. And that last page is the biggest problem I had- the events it suggests are unclear, and in attempting to give us a clever little twist at the end, takes a character that we'd only known for a couple of pages and expects us to find whatever scam he pulled off amusing, but unfortunately it just comes off confusing and unnecessary.
I was most impressed with Rob G's art here- he goes for a less detailed and more reckless style here, sloppily inked (reminsicent of Steven Guadiano over Mike Lark on Gotham Central) and using spot color a la Miller (but more liberally), and damned if he doesn't pull it off for the most part. Of course, his figure drawings are still sometimes amateurish and awkward, but not so much that it becomes an annoyance, and I am happy to see that he's finally made himself lay off the Photoshop "blur" filter. This less refined approach serves this type of story very well, and I was drawn in because of it. All in all, the best job I've seen yet from Mister G.
From the description, I was kinda expecting Zelig meets Sin City, but that turns out to not be the case. Filler is an enjoyable- if not especially innovative or fresh- down-on-his-luck-lug-meets-hooker-with-a-heart-of-tarnished-gold tale that is a good read despite the tacked-on epilogue. Won't knock your socks off, but is worth a look just the same.