TWO DEAD by Van Jensen


by & illustrated by
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Writer Jensen (James Bond: Live and Let Die, 2019, etc.) and illustrator Powell (Come Again, 2018, etc.) deliver a kinetic noir graphic novel about the cost of war and guilt as a straight-arrow soldier with blood on his hands returns from World War II to restore order in his hometown, plunging into a volatile mix of police corruption, racism, and the mob.

Gideon Kemp was a good soldier with plans to be a lawyer, but after a friendly-fire incident in the war he becomes a cop in Little Rock, Arkansas, secretly building a case against Abraham Bailey, the loose-cannon chief of detectives who shoots first in his personal war on crime—and with the mob setting up shop in town, that’s a lot of shooting. The unhinged Bailey shares a macabre compulsion with his foe, mob boss Big Mike, though the sadistic Big Mike comes across as the more reasonable of the two, offering a promotion to Esau, the numbers runner in the mobster’s illegal poker room, after Esau doesn’t give up his boss when assaulted by Bailey during the detective’s extrajudicial search for evidence. Noting the absence of opportunities for African Americans like them in Little Rock, Esau encourages his brother, Jacob, to quit the ad hoc police force of war veterans who patrol the underserved black side of town (only by the grace of the all-white Little Rock Police Department) and instead embrace the money and respect offered by the mob. The knotty story shows the traumas of the past shaping the present, some panels literally haunted by specters. Fresh from his work on John Lewis' acclaimed March trilogy, Powell applies a pleasingly realistic look while cartoonish flourishes electrify the page. Jensen weaves a propulsive narrative of intersecting stories and festering wounds that doesn’t quite deliver a knockout punch but is highly engaging.

Good pulp.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5011-6895-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2019