Dark Corridor #1 is a crime comic divided into two sections: “Red Circle” and “Seven Deadly Daughters.” The stories both take place in the same city in, ostensibly, the same time period. If you’re a fan of the Hernandez Brothers, Paul Grist, or the Fantagraphics aesthetic in general, this might be up your alley. The problem is, you might also find it slightly derivative.

The split-story idea is a nice hook because of how dense Rich Tommaso’s writing is. There’s a lot going on, but it’s readable, almost conversational: this won’t remind you of, say, Ed Brubaker, unless you’ve been reading Brubaker since the Lowlife days. It feels lower-stakes and, one might argue, less serious than David Lapham’s Stray Bullets or Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets, but has a similar “anything could happen to these characters” vibe. There’s a lot to chew on inside the stories Tommaso presents.

The art calls to mind a bed of influences: there’s a lot of Los Bros Hernandez in there; the character acting (poses, etc.) run so close to Paul Grist that you might think you’re reading Kane in color. Dark Corridor #1 wouldn’t be out of place at Fantagraphics, but it seems like a stylistic fish-out-of-water at Image. It could be an announcement that, yes, they’re trying a lot of new things, but it comes off as so left-field that it might alienate readers.

The coloring in Dark Corridor is a mixed bag from page to page. There are points where it’s vibrant and exciting, and points where it’s hard to discern one character from another because of Tommaso’s art style. He also falls into a lot of Comic Book Standard Browns — and yes, this is a crime book, so darker tones are warranted, but it doesn’t help set it apart from anything else out there.

Similar to the coloring, the lettering occasionally jumbles the book; balloon tails will criss-cross each other in confusing ways — even to the seasoned reader. When you’re already doing something that’s outside the entire line of books you’re working in, accessibility should be a priority; while this is a small failure, it’s one that one hopes will disappear during the book’s lifetime.

Dark Corridor #1 gets an absolute endorsement if you’re already stepped outside of the Marvel / DC / Image / Dark Horse comfort zone. Rich Tommaso is doing something here that’s neat and unfamiliar enough to excuse its flaws. If you like crime stories with ambition, and you’re tired of the same-old / same-old with Brubaker and Phillips, give this a whirl.

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