Award-winning cartoonist/illustrator/author/playwright Feiffer (Backing into Forward, 2010, etc.) delivers his first graphic novel, a sprawling, kinetic noir of giant women, jumbled identities and warped relations.
Annie Hannigan hates her mother. The resentment—and teenage Annie’s incessant acting up—stems from her sense that mom Elsie has abandoned her since the murder of Annie’s father, an honest cop who ran afoul of the mob during Prohibition. Lately Elsie has been busy working as the secretary of alcoholic, abrasive private eye Neil Hammond, an associate of her late husband’s who promised to solve the murder, though he's made little progress for two years. When a towering, classy blonde steps into Hammond’s office and hires him to track down an equally tall, equally blonde woman, it sets off a series of events that will pepper the subsequent decade with bullets, beatings and betrayals. Mixed in is a prizefighter who is light on his feet but down in the mouth; Annie’s milquetoast partner in crime who comes into his own while serving in WWII’s Pacific theater; fleshy scandals of golden-age Hollywood; a mysterious bat-wielding giant of a woman who communicates only through song; and Feiffer’s twistedly comic take on humanity. Things come to a head during a USO show in the jungles of Tarawa, where parties bristle with cross-purposes and secret agendas until gunfire lays the truth bare. The story is wickedly imagined and deftly plotted, drawing on numerous classic noir influences while including charmingly unique flourishes like Elsie thwarting a pack of street toughs (one of whom wears a crown à la Jughead) after appropriating a pistol from a disagreeable communist liquor-store clerk. Feiffer’s illustrations have a rough-hewn quality, with the jumbled lines of his figures and faces clumping evocatively like Giacometti sculptures, while his human forms move with the fluidity of Degas’ horses across open panels of dancing and boxing. The entire work feels pulled from an earlier time yet explosively modern, a madcap relic animated by an outrageous mind.
An unusual, unforgettable, incomparable pulpy punch.