You Have Killed Me

Posted by on July 20th, 2010 at 12:03 AM


You Have Killed Me
Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones
Oni Press; 196 pages
$19.95; B&W Hardcover

In this tale, another graphic novel I found in the public library, a private detective named Tony Mercer undertakes to find Jennie’s missing sister, Julie, who Mercer once dated when they were in high school. Julie turned up missing shortly after entering a windowless bathroom in the hotel room she and Jennie were sharing. It’s one of those locked-room mysteries, but it is never solved. We never find out how Julie got out of the locked room that Jennie and her assistants had to break down in order to enter. We do find out, however, that Jennie killed her sister, so we might assume that the “locked room” is a red herring concocted by the murderess to mask her deed: she “says” she had to break in, but Mercer never verifies this assertion.

This might be counted as a signal flaw in the tale if Rich was regaling us with a simple mystery, but he isn’t. Instead, he’s producing an imitation Raymond Chandler story. The detective is sent on numerous errands, and, like the Continental Op, he picks up scraps of information as he goes, and he’s menaced along the way by some the ungodly, so there’s enough threat of violence to keep us in suspense and engaged. Mostly, we become acquainted with a thoroughly unsavory amoral society, a Chandleresque milieu. And since acquainting us with this lot of failed humanity is the chief purpose of the story, we must conclude that Rich succeeds.

Jones draws with an appealing bold line coupled to fine-line trimmings and accented with solid blacks and gray tones. Some of her pictures are minor stylistic victories, but overall, her angular geometric manner slips into a certain awkwardness too frequently. In pursuit of the mannered style, her command of anatomical proportion sometimes falters. Modeling with chunks of solid black works sometimes, but sometimes the results are dubious: some pictures look like experiments that didn’t quite turn out. And she sometimes paces the visuals to no purpose: it takes a silent page for a new dealer to take over the blackjack table where Mercer is gambling, but the event itself doesn’t need all that drama. Here is a sample of Jones’ effort. Pleasing enough overall, but in the third panel, her rendering of the guy in the suit suddenly assumes an expressionist mode, abandoning anatomy in favor of caricaturing action.



The prologue, with a wounded Mercer comforting an injured cat in the alley, is never firmly connected to the ensuing narrative. He mutters, “You have killed me,” but he’s never dead, and if he still carries a torch for the murdered Julie, it’s not all that obvious. Still, the pages are mostly attractive, the rendering usually adequate, and the story itself Chandleresque enough to keep you engaged.


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