by Nick Chidgey There was something about Blue Estate that just sounded exciting. A creator-owned, Tarantino-esque crime book, with lots of blood, violence, sex, and profanity, and executing it all in style with not one, but five different artists, with each scene transition marked by a change in style. It sounded ambitious, to be sure, and a welcome change compared to the usual "house style" formula comics that are the norm, but ambition can only go so far.
It's a shame that such a noble venture should fall so flat. Experimentation is important, especially in the world of comics, where corporate brand management is the rule, rather than the exception and we as readers hold such high hopes for creator-owned titles like these to break the molds. We constantly hope that some brave creator(s) will endeavor to make a comic that pushes the form to its limits, rather than attempting to get the attention of a Hollywood executive. But for me, Blue Estate was not that book, despite a solid attempt to be. Rather, it left me feeling a bit like rather than embracing the comics medium it was a story that was biding its time as a comic book until it can get its big break in Hollywood.
In a way, this shouldn't be surprising. The book is openly a collaboration between Hollywood and comics pros with screenwriters and directors on the list of creators right along with the writers and artists. It was always billed as the comics equivalent to a big-budget L.A. crime noir blockbuster, but I guess I was just hoping it would turn out to actually be a bit more than that. Maybe it was just me, as the book is billed on the Image Comics website as "critically acclaimed" and I can see why in some circles it would be. But personally, I was unimpressed.
Not much needs to be said for the story. It's relatively uninspired, a collection of mobster cliches, with a Steven Seagal pastiche thrown into the mix, although I do like the Jonah Hill-esque private detective, one nice deviation from the cookie cutter cast (and the book certainly could have benefitted from more of him). Even though "cinematic" is generally considered a selling point for comics, in this case, it shortchanges the book, making it seem more like a failed movie pitch than taking advantage of the full potential the comic book medium has to offer.
The frequent art changes, while attempting to move readers through both time, space, and mood, aren't executed as well as they could have been, leaving the story a bit confusing at times. Each artist is enjoyable to look at, to be sure, but so much variety just doesn't really serve readers' best interests.
Let's just say, at least for me, it was a failed experiment, though a very good looking one. But it is an ongoing book with it's "first season" wrapping up soon (issue 11 of the 12 issue "season" drops May 2). So I can still hold out that hope that will one day embrace it's own identity and become the comic book I think it could be, rather than the movie pitch I feel like it is.
TL;DR: A seemingly exciting premise and unique structure falls flat with cookie-cutter characterizations and a cinematic look that hinders rather than helps.
Blue Estate is created and largely written and illustrated by Victor Kalvachev, along with a slew of other collaborators. You can find a complete list and details on each collaborator on the Blue Estate website. Published by Image Comics, you can ask for the back issues (#1-10) at your local comic book shop and look for issue #11 May 02. You can also read issue #1 for free on ComiXology (must be 17 or older). Or, pick up the first two volumes (collecting issues #1-8) from the Spandexless web store.
Review PDFs of Blue Estate were graciously provided to Spandexless by the creator.
Nick Chidgey is a contributor to Spandexless.