Review – Glasscity – The Story of a Missing Girl – Volume 1 (of 3)
Writer/Creator – Dave Cranna
Artist/Colourist – Roman Gubskii
Letterer – Ryan Bielak
Release Date – February 2021
I was sitting in my office here in BGCP Towers when a tall blond walked past my window. I knew he was tall because my office is on the third floor. He entered the office like a gigantic, crumpled, Tasmanian Devil; hellbent on retaining the services of yours truly. I immediately stopped what I had been busy doing, prior to this rude interruption (nada) when he growled these four words in my general direction – “Thurr’s bin a murrderr…”
The above nonsense is most definitely not the opening to Glasscity – The Story of a Missing Girl – Volume 1, you’ll be relieved to hear. But, if you like the hardboiled “heroics” of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, the nihilistic noir of Frank Miller’s Sin City, or the Glaswegian glowering of Mark McManus in Taggart, then do I have a book for you!
Set in an alternate, futuristic reality where not only has Scotland been an independent country for one hundred years, but Glassburgh (the titular Glasscity – a portmanteau of Glasgow and Edinburgh, eh?) is “the economic capital of the world.” Here we find Detective Gabriel Gatti; a policeman who is introduced to us, along with his partner, Jacob Munro, standing over the body of a recently murdered tourist. “I watch his blood trickle down the gutter… mixing with the slime and dirt of everything else. This fucker deserves none of my attention. Not today.”
Gabe, it seems is a very jaded copper. With good reason as it turns out (but you’ll have to read the book to find out why – there’ll be no spoilers here!). For all of the financial successes and the technological advancements that have been made (one news broadcast informs the reader that “the first official colony [has] set out to begin life on Mars.”) people are still just people and the polis of Glasscity are very, very busy.
The writer/creator of Glasscity – The Story of a Missing Girl, Dave Cranna, wears his influences on his sleeve; Frank Miller’s seminal, Sin City series is clearly a literary forebear of this book. From the rain-soaked streets of the slums, to the sun-kissed skyscrapers, home to seedy ne’er-do-wells; from the cynical, booze-soaked narration of our “hero”, Gabe, to the hearty laughter of the dirty, double-dealing cops in the employ of Glasscity’s crime lords.
The damaged central character’s inner monologue reminds me a lot of Frank Castle in Garth Ennis’ Punisher Max series. That, and his terse, monosyllabic style of speaking (when he does speak – Gabe’s partner, Jacob, appears in about half the scenes and has almost as many lines).
These influences are filtered through a hilarious and distinctly Scottish lens. At one point, the dull, dreech weather (SEE! Told you it was Scottish!) is described as being “a dick, it just never stops.” I’m positive that in one scene, Detective Gabe even downs a couple of shots of Buckfast tonic vino; although, as it’s only described as a “thick black liquid” that mmmmmay just be my own biases creeping in…).
As in most classic noir mysteries, we begin with a murder and then another, more intriguing case is undertaken by the dicks. It’s this secondary objective which becomes the main focus of the book, and which gives it its title. It is this mystery which will have the reader desperate for volume 2 (which I have been assured is currently being baked in the team’s respective ovens even as I type this) and an answer to the question, “Who is Plum?”
Roman Gubskii takes on the artistic duties; pencils, inks and colouring – is there no end to this man’s talents? His cartoony style shifts effortlessly from the quiet, peaceful, island paradise in the story’s opening, to the slime and dirt choked gutters of Glasscity in a memorably jarring sequence of panels. A bright, hopeful, close-up of a character, wide-eyed with excitement becomes a scene straight from the pages of the grizzliest of horror books.
The range of emotions he manages to convey through his character’s facial expressions alone is impressive; leaving the reader in no doubt as to what this person is feeling. From the grief and anguish of a distraught mother, to the hungry desperation of a witness, to the blind terror of a doomed stoolie. Gabriel Gatti’s inner monologue is there to let us know what he’s going through, but Gubskii’s storytelling works to really hammer home every dirty, heartfelt emotion.
Ryan Bielak’s low-key lettering perfectly serves the story; expertly guiding the reader’s eye to the next panel and never leaving you in any doubt as to who is speaking. The captions, switching from the bright orange used for the opening, contrasting with the sudden change to the white script on black background used for Gabe’s introduction being the perfect example – this is not a story about hope.
The various electronic devices used during the course of the tale are each given their own distinct ‘personalities’; our protagonist almost seems to have an adversarial relationship with his hand held and home computers. During one scene, I swear I could feel the drums and hear the bagpipes (Scotland, represent!). Noticeable, yet subtle, never ever cluttering the panels, Bielak’s lettering always allows the artwork room to breathe.
Glasscity – The Story of a Missing Girl – Volume 1 sees all three members of the creative team come together for a cracking opener, and I can’t wait to get my hands on volumes two and three. The result of a very successful Kickstarter campaign, volume 1 has gone into (at least) its second printing and if you want to get you hands on a copy (and why wouldn’t you, hmmmm?) you can contact them directly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or buy it from Comichaus by clicking on the links.
A few of us here on the third floor of BGCP Towers were lucky enough to have a chat with Dave on the very first episode of our podcast, BGCP: Disassembled (click the link to find out what Mr. Cranna had to say about his first foray into using Kickstarter and entering into the murky world of comic book creation).
I’ll leave you with this rather lovely quote from the inside cover of the first print of the book for the original backers (of whom I are yin btw) –
“Don’t leave your dreams in your head.”
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