It’s impossible for me to be entirely objective about The Rinse, as its artist is an old and valued friend. We’ve had a brief conversation about the book; now it’s time to take a proper look.
First things first: this is a very good-looking book. I’ll say again that it’s impossible to be entirely objective, but the visuals on the book are quite lovely. Marc Laming (the artist, about whom it’s etc etc) is inking his own pencils and while his previous work, inked by others, wasn’t what you’d call sloppy, it has an added depth here that can only be accounted for by the fact that what you’re seeing is what he wants you to see. There’s no intermediary artist/inker coming between you the reader and him the artist.
This is important in a book like The Rinse, with its cast of characters that could very easily become visually homogenised and lose their individual identities. That this doesn’t happen, even in sequences which are set in dimly-lit rooms, is a credit both to Laming and to the colourist, Darrin Moore (whose parents were probably big fans of Bewitched, judging by his name’s spelling. This is a Good Thing, as the world can never have too many references to Elizabeth Montgomery).
So do I have a problem with this book at all? Yes I do, and that is that The Rinse is a comicbook that reads like a book, and moreover a book that was intended to be denser than the four-issue miniseries format allowed. Gary Phillips, the writer, is an established novelist, has written a graphic novel for Vertigo and, judging from The Rinse, has plenty of experience of plotting and characterisation, neither of which are a negative in this case. Characters have strong individual characteristics and the plot is good and tight.
But the book in its entirety, the story as an whole and the individual scenes between characters, seem to have a slightly uneven air, rushed in places, leisurely in others and at times just plain remiss. It’s fun, for instance, to see the bad guy has a phobia, but we have no idea why and it’s not really brought to our attention until it’s foregrounded in the last part of the story. We see that the two heavies who spent most of the four issues chasing the hero around have an air of Mr Wint and Mr Kidd about them, but given how their particular story ends, it would have been good to see some greater backstory or exploration of why they were working together in the first place, and of what kept them together.
The most obvious fault is that there are great chunks of exposition dropped into the story every so often, and that’s why the overall feel is of a narrative that would have been better serviced with more space to explore backstory, develop characters, and show rather than tell some of those details which are brought out via having a character stand and talk at another one.
Don’t get the wrong idea; this is a very good book indeed. It’s very much suited more to the trade paperback format than to pamphlets/floppies; Phillips has written a long-form story rather than a serial, so no recaps or any of the other standard ‘this-happened-last-issue’ comicbook tropes. In trade it’ll be easier to keep tabs on which character is doing what to which other character – somebody with a fleeting walk-on in issue one plays a major part in issue four, for example, and the casual reader in floppy format may not retain the knowledge of who and what that somebody is.
I’ll say again, as this review may well seem to be accentuating the negatives: I recommend The Rinse highly. I’d have done so without any prior knowledge of Laming. I do so with no prior knowledge of Phillips (though I do now intend to hunt down his novels). It’s a damn good comic, one of the many damn good comics that Boom! Studios are quietly slipping out these days (it stuns me that the two comics I’ve enjoyed most in the last few months have been this and Snarked! – a kids book!). If I was giving marks it’d get 7/10, borderline 8.
And for what it’s worth, I think it’d make a damn good film.