Turncoat is an example of the dangers of mixed-genre, a story somewhat driven by its own clichés but in a manner that it is not at all certain where those clichés belong. However, it is entirely possible that some of this confusion could be undone with a different writer/artist pairing.
Marta Gonzalez fought in the war between Earth and the alien-insect presence known as the Management. Pushing back against their occupation, Marta betrayed Management and mankind repelled their forces. However, humanity felt her contribution was more based in her need to be on the winning side, so neither the human resistance or Management see her as anything but a traitor. With the war ten years over, Marta is now a private investigator seeking a missing child, one she believes may be a hybrid between humans and Management.
This is a great example of a story that stubs its toe right out the gate. It’s exposition-heavy, leading with the end of the war. Yet it’s exposition is not entirely clear. The reader understands there was a war, but with whom is entirely uncertain. Though everything seems whimsical or sci-fi, i.e. floating castles (or maybe they were space ships) and the human-alien integration (or maybe they were all human and some of them just look extremely different than the others), you’re never really sure what you’re supposed to be taking in. Artist and co-creator Artyom Trakhanov is one of the most enjoyable talents working today. His work is imaginative and wildly colorful. However, his style with this part-Blade Runner, part-Maltese Falcon story only adds to the disorientation. It seems everything would have been better served starting the story with Marta receiving the case, hinting at her backstory and saving the scenes from the war for later issues when everything else is firmly in motion.
In fact, the art and the script almost seem to be in violent competition with each other. Trakhanov’s inks and colors want to tell a bold fantasy while writer and co-creater Alex Paknadel’s script wants to tell a hard-boiled detective story. Down to lines like “This stinks like motel bed sheets and you know it”, Marta and her narration desperately want to be in a very different kind of story than the one we find them in. If the art matched, it would be much easier to take in the clues being presented to the reader. As it stands, it was hard to tell if the reader was being offered clues or just tremendously stylized visuals.
Let’s take a moment to give Artyom Trakhanov his due, though. Anyone looking to expand their mind beyond the normal, paint-by-numbers approach of many books, should seek out his work here or in Image’s Undertow. He is a brilliant, inspiring talent and every page he offers rewards reflection and consideration. Everyone would benefit with a bit more of dynamic, chromatic storytelling.
The art and story simply trip over each other rather than building one and other.
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