Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Ryan K. Lindsay and Sami Kivela have brought an all new kind of terror to the harsh waters of the sea: crime. Trapped on an island, the lives of its inhabitants are about to be turned upside down as the seedy underbelly washes up on the shore.
Read on below for our full spoiler free review of “Chum” #1.
Written by Ryan K. Lindsay
Illustrated by Sami Kivela
Summer Stanwyck feeks like she’s drowning. She tends bar on the island she grew up on, the local cop is about to become her ex-husband, and she’s killing time screwing the local reefer kingpin. But when a bag full of cash and drugs falls into her lap, she sees a way out… and anyone who gets in her way is shark bait.
Crime stories can be a dime a dozen in comics. When you think about it, pretty much ever superhero comic is a crime comic except your detective main character just happens to be wearing spandex in a cape. It takes a deft touch to make a crime comic work and make it stand out from the crowd, especially in today’s market. That’s why the aesthetic of “Chum” #1, the surf noir comic by Ryan K. Lindsay and Sami Kivela interested me. Essentially, what “surf noir” boils down to is that Linday and Kivela have done is set your average noir crime story on what I’m pretty sure is a Pacific Island during surfing competition and that’s pretty much all they needed to do to make “Chum” #1 stand out on its own.
Sure, it helps that Ryan K. Lindsay is channelling his best Raymond Chandler with writing that is pulpy and atmsopheric and full of despicable characters making the worst life choices and that Sami Kivela’s artwork brings a sense of stark realism that underlines the tension and violence of the story. That goes a long way in making “Chum” #1 a very engaging read. It’s a story full of characters who don’t exist to be nice or to make good life choices, but who exist to get by in a rough situation by looking out for only themselves. That makes for a genuinely varied emotional state for each character and while we only really dig into the emotions of a couple of the characters here, the relationships that are slowly built up over the course of the issue promise very interesting interactions to come.
If there’s only one real downside to this issue is that it feels very focused on setting up the state of affairs and the tension of the story meaning you’re probably going to be waiting another issue for it to really kick off. Still, it’s only a three issue miniseries so that’s not a big ask and you can very much tell with this issue if you’re going to stick around for the next. For my money, I definitely am as Linsday and Kivela masterfully ramp up the tension with each scene as bad decision after bad decision piles up and we get a tease of the consequences that the characters will be facing. If nothing else, “Chum” #1 feels like a pot set to boil and by the end of this issue you can see the edges of the water start to bubble with the promise that by the next issue things are going to start really boiling over.
As I’ve mentioned, Sami Kivela’s artwork brings a stark, almost brutal realism to the comic. This is very much appreciated as the writing has a stripped down, no-nonsense approach to the noirish atmosphere and the way that Kivela renders the drab, run down atmosphere of Sunny’s bar really hits home the claustrophobia of being trapped on an island with no way off. The linework is simple, but there’s definitely an elegance here. Even in the darkest, most violent moments of the comic, Kivela brings some beautiful pages out of Lindsay’s script. Speaking of violent moments, there’s a couple in this issue that really punctuate the story and one in particular that feels astonishingly brutal as the inciting action that sets the pot to boil for the rest of the issue.Continued below
Those pages are brought to life with colours from Mark Dale, who brings a toned down and pretty drab palette to the issue to bring out the feeling of hopelessness created by the storm early in the issue. The colours of the issue are all very warm, with Sunny’s bright orange hair being the colour ties the brown-orange skies and the deep browns of the bar together. It’s not a monotonous panel, though, as some instances of blue punctuate the story in a way that nicely contrasts the deep, warm colours. It’s a very naturalistic palette and reinforces the stark realism of Kivela’s artwork by keeping that dark, noirish atmosphere at the forefront of the comic.
All in all, “Chum” #1 is an intriguing first issue that sets up a lot of elements in a way that promises a big payoff down the line. If you’re at all a fan of noir or crime comics, Ryan K. Lindsay and Sami Kivela have crafted something pretty unique thanks to the shift in location for the comic. It’s not the kind of story that’s going to reinvent the wheel for noir comics, but thanks to some really strong characterisation and fantastic artwork, it does just enough different to stand out from the crowd and grab some attention. This first issue might be a bit of a slow burn for some to really get into, but I can guarantee this is the kind of comic that people will be talking about by the time we get to read all three issues.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – Get in early so you can claim the title of surf noir hipster before everyone eats this book up once the trade drops. You heard it here first, folks.