Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are probably best known for their 100 Bullets series.

It makes sense, the series is a perennial seller and award winner for DC. Like Sandman and Preacher, it was a cornerstone for its era of Vertigo. Its blend of seedy crime and intrigue spearheading a broader expansion of types of genre fiction. On top of just being damned good.

They’re a solid team, as evidenced by their multiple successful collaborations for over twenty-five years, and one of my favourites. There’s a grit to their work that I find appealing, whether they’re working in the crime genre, science fiction, horror, or with their latest release, The Blood Brothers Mother, western.

It all started with a Vertigo spin on an old DC character.

Guy like me never has two good days in a row.”

Jonny Double by Azzarello, Risso, Grant Goleash, Digital Chameleon, and Clem Robins is straight up noir. There’s hardboiled narration, an inventive modern caper, shadowy heavies, and a femme fatale. And the stereotypical down on his luck private detective in Jonny Double himself. Not as sleazy as some of the characters that would populate 100 Bullets, but still decidedly heading by way of Carl Hiaasen. Albeit staying on the west coast.

You could probably argue that the narration is a little wordy for a comic, but I like how Brian Azzarello approaches it. Aside from just being one of the components that helps make up a piece of the genre, adding an appropriate feel to the story, it also gives us insight into Jonny’s character. Balanced out by some compelling silent sequences that allow Risso to show off his own visual storytelling.

Eduardo Risso’s artwork on this series is sublime. It’s busier than his later work, before he simplified and refined his style, though it’s still incredible. That fine-lined style with interesting details and dark shadows that’s perfect for mystery and crime stories. More than his later work, this period of his style particularly reminds me of Edvin Biuković. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually a shared influence of Hugo Pratt and early Alberto Breccia, but it’s wonderful. You can see here early signs of where Risso will be taking his expressive and exaggerated character faces in some of the villains.

The colouring from Grant Goleash captures a similar seedy feel to the story. It’s stylized with a muted colour palette, allowing the spot colours and shadows to really stand out. In a way, it makes the world feel a bit sick, downtrodden, and bleak. There’s also a nice colour wash for flashbacks. And Clem Robins’ seemingly slightly larger lettering feels right for the work.

See, it all fell apart when I got spooked.”

There have been quite a number of character reimaginings from Vertigo over the decades. Some radical departures. Some fairly similar to their source material. Some worked. Some didn’t. A noir take on Jonny Double by Azzarello, Risso, Goleash, Digital Chameleon, and Robins is definitely one of the ones that did work. Because it works as a standalone genre piece. It tells the story of a heist and the consequences of it on its own terms first and foremost. And kicked off an incredible creative team’s body of work.

Jonny Double

Classic Comic Compendium: JONNY DOUBLE

Jonny Double
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Colourists: Grant Goleash & Digital Chameleon (separations)
Letterer: Clem Robins
Publisher: DC Comics – Vertigo
Release Date: July 15 – October 21 1998
Collected in Jonny Double and Vertigo Resurrected: Jonny Double

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!


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