Monday, November 13, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini -- A Review [NSFW]

There are currently few purveyors of the hardboiled noir school of pulp fiction that are as good as the Hard Case Crime imprint from Titan Books. When I want a new crime fiction book to read, I go through the crime section of the book store, looking for the familiar white and orange spine with that Hard Crime logo. I am never disappointed. When Titan Comics announced a few years ago that they would be adding a Hard Case Crime comics line, I was over the moon. There have been some great comics since: Peepland, Normandy Gold and their adaptation of the Millennium Trilogy have been some of the best crime comics of recent time. Now, add to this list the awesomely named Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

Minky Woodcock is the crime story equivalent of a classic burlesque artist: cheeky, cleverer than you are, and ever so sexy. Lead by playwright, performer, musician and award-winning artist Cynthia von Buhler in her comic book creating debut, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is a sexy and spunky story set in the 1920s.

Much like with a number of of the Hard Case Crime comics, this is a comic for adults. There is nudity and sexual themes that won't be for everyone. Despite the setting of the book, Minky Woodcock has that 70s sexploitation vibe that was in other books like Normandy Gold or Peepland. But I think that if you like stories about strong women who aren't afraid of their sexuality, you won't have a problem with this aspect of the story.

This is an ambitious comic book, inspired by the death of Harry Houdini and featuring other real life personalities like Arthur Conan Doyle. Like any good piece of noir detective fiction, Minky Woodcock, the character, is flawed and determined, a true outsider because of her being a woman in a world still controlled by men. It is, in part, due to this world that she is driven to prove herself as being as capable as anyone else.

If there is a fault to the comic, it is that it ends much too quickly. The story of the first issue is paced to pull you through at an almost breakneck speed, and before you know it it is done. There is a lot of character development that goes on in those pages, you see Minky is motivated by the deaths in her family, and a desire to hold the remainders of her family together.

These deaths are important, not just to the character of Minky, but also to the plot of the story. As Minky Woodcock delves into the world of spiritualism, those deaths will be used as a tool against her, and she will need to draw upon her inner strength to overcome it.

This issue is a good starting point, and I look forward to seeing the story develop. von Buhler's art is something that you don't see in comic books every day, and that gives a unique tone to the story that helps to root the story in its historical period. That is probably a convoluted way of saying that Cynthia von Buhler's art contributes to setting the historical tone of the story. She has a deft hand with capturing the look and feel of the 1920s, and there is an emotional undercurrent to the art that helps to anchor the emotional charge of Minky. I don't think that I can speak highly enough of this book. If you like noir detective stories, or if you like historical stories with a bit of an edge to them, you will want to read Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

Maybe we will get to see characters like Minky or Normandy show up on the fiction side of things? Christa Faust's Angel Dare novels could use some companionship up on my bookshelves.