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Don’t Miss This: “Newburn” by Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips

By | March 3rd, 2022
Posted in Columns | % Comments

There are a lot of comics out there, but some stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This,” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we’re spotlighting “Newburn”, a hard hitting, sleek, well plotted crime story that’s caught our interest.

Art by Jacob Phillips

Who is this by?

Chip Zdarsky is probably best known for his breakout story Sex Criminals with Matt Fraction, but he’s added his charm, both visually and in the written form, to a variety of comics, from Daredevil to The Spectacular Spider-Man to Howard the Duck and beyond. His current work, other than Newburn, are Daredevil: Woman Without and Devil’s Reign. We bring this up not just to show the breadth of stuff he’s working on, but because the totality of a creator’s work can be interesting. How do these stories bleed into each other, how does a microcosm of stories someone’s working on affect what they do? In this case, “Newburn” occupies a tighter, more coy space than the other, more blockbuster stories mentioned. Sometimes constraints can be liberating, and needing to write within the bounds of a story’s ethos and worldbuilding can lead to unexpected places. We see some of that in “Newburn”, which we’ll discuss in later sections.

Jacob Phillips is on pictures for this one, a newer player on the scene but a heavy hitter nonetheless who’s established himself well with “That Texas Blood”. His atmospheric, gloomy yet visually direct style does wonders in a neo-noir style story like “Newburn”. To be honest, a big draw to “Newburn” is the combination between Phillips and Zdarsky. Of course, more on that later. Anyways, what Phillips lacks in comics art credits he more than makes up for in visual chops. This is someone to watch. We’re hoping to see him on more projects.

Finally, “Newburn” comes with a little extra story, “Brooklyn Zircona,” that ends at the end of the upcoming issue, “Newburn” #4. It’s written by Nadia Shammas, illustrated by Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub, and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic. If you’re already reading the main comic, definitely put in the extra few minutes to zip through “Brooklyn Zircona,” it’s well worth the time.

What’s it all about?

“Newburn” is an ongoing series that, well, follows Easton Newburn, a private detective in New York City with no strong loyalties other than to the greater order. It’s a tale as old as time. It’s not the Newburn doesn’t care about justice, it’s more that he understands his place in the grand order of things. For justice to exist, he has to exist. For peace to prevail, he must do some dirty work. Easton Newburn stalks New York City, weaving between different gang groups and mafia families, investigating crimes the police won’t touch that, if not solved, would pour gasoline on the fire that ever burns in the belly of the criminal underworld. One spark, and things could change fast. Newburn the man is stoic, a bit of an ass, sometimes callous, and always assertive when he feels like he can get away with it. So, maybe not the best traits you’d look for in a friend but the kind of guy you want dealing with the bloody and bold elements of a criminal underworld. Given the name of the comic, you can probably guess that most stories revolve around Easton and his exploits. While each issue is connected, “Newburn” has a procedural element to it, each new issue gives us another location, another bad guy, and another shady element to follow. Despite the gruesome subject matter, “Newburn” never revels in gore or gets too graphic. It’s old school in that way; the action is suave, quick, and efficient. The violence serves the story, not the other way around. At the end of the day, “Newburn” is a detective story. That means common tropes abound. We have crime scenes, witnesses, head scratching and evidence gathering; all that good stuff. Now let’s talk about why it’s worth checking out.

Art by Jacob Phillips

What makes it so great?

Detective stories usually need either a good protagonist or a good story to work. Really, one will do — if the the foes are flimsy but the protagonist is charismatic enough, you’ll do well. If the protagonist is a bit one note but the world he inhabits feels fierce and atmospheric enough, that can get the job done. “Newburn” is worth reading because it squares the circle and gives us both. Newburn starts the story as hardboiled as they come, but softens over time as he begins working with Emily, a community minded investigator that acts as the id to Newburn’s superego. While the story has had its ups and downs in terms of quality, the main thrust has always been strong. The foes have been fearsome, and as far as detective stories go, this one does a good job in terms of verisimilitude. This is in New York City after all, and “Newburn” doesn’t shy away from the kinds of corruption and glad-handing that goes on. The upcoming issue takes on the PBA, and doesn’t mince words. Finally, “Newburn” works best because it combines the character driven work of Zdarsky with Phillips’ brisk but captivating art. Newburn the character hits hard, with snark to boot. The art in “Newburn”, in a way, follows. Phillips gives us deep colors and a lot of blocky-ness, but it’s all so legible and elegant with how straight forward it is. “Newburn” is incredibly readable, and the art just lets the whole thing breathe. This feels like comics distilled to its purest form. Good dialogue, menacing baddies, and strategic closeups. This thing is a joy to read. If you’re looking for something to throw on the TBR pile, this is it. Hell, even throw it on top. You’ll thank us later.

Continued below

Art by Jacob Phillips

How can you read it?

“Newburn” #4, the latest chapter in this story, comes out this week wherever comics are sold. March 2nd — you’ll want to be there.

//TAGS | Don't Miss This

Kobi Bordoley

comic reviews, as a treat.


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