Jonathan Case (W), Jonathan Case (A), Jonathan Case (C)
On Sale September 23, 2015
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
1930’s America, Manhattan to be precise, is a place where poverty and riches, where art and industry all combine with social reform. Set against this chaotic backdrop is the Waldorf Astoria, a pearl of opulence that draws in a select crowd, serviced by the flawed and the dreamers alike; all existing in a world within the world.
Working the halls is Frank O’Malley, a bellhop and his potentially more than friend Theresa Harris. Frank has a heart of gold, looking to promote Theresa’s play and trying to support her as an actor whilst she works as maid, fighting the inequality that was around back then. Into their lives, steps the mysterious Nina Booth who makes quite an impression on all she meets, especially young Frank. As it’s a hotel, there are other guests, one of which is owed $400 by Frank and numerous other guests and staff alike. Also along for the ride is thief who manages to steal some jewellery. So the stage is set, the characters in place for the beautiful misdirection of a top-notch crime noir drama.
Jonathan Case, whose work you may have seen on Batman ’66, has created a world that is vibrant and ironically as it’s a black and white book, full of colourful characters. Frank, who struggles with the idea of becoming rich by hook or by crook or even poker only to be stymied by his own naiveté. Theresa who dreams of being an actress only to be reminded of how the residents see her. Finally, there is Nina, who is flirty and sultry, the typical bored socialite and sometime femme fatale. All three have a role to play in the goings on at the Waldorf. Case’s script and dialogue is a marvel to read. Each of the many characters has their own voice, their emotions clear to the reader with the affection that Frank and Theresa have for each other coming through as both puppy dog-esque from Frank and a growing awareness from Theresa being the highlights.
The art is equally brilliant. For fans of Case’s work this will come as no surprise. He has a tendency to mix styles to match characters. Frank for example is quite cartoony, to show his youthfulness I assume, whereas Nina is more elegant showing a playful side to both Frank and Theresa, the art having a Darwin Cooke feel. The pacing of the book is great, with no one chapter feeling underwritten.
With such wonderful work in the book, I was a tad disappointed that certain staging elements didn’t seem to get resolved. This is a minor issue, but would have helped me to understand Frank’s later actions. As it is the book reads very well and the hundred pages or so fly past in no time at all. Case has surprised me with a book that some would see as “just a heist book”, but delivering it with style and aplomb.