Dead Rabbit #1 Is A Twisty Violent Noir Drama Worth Reading
by Tony Thornley
Dead Rabbit was once one of Boston’s most brutal crooks – an equal opportunity burglar who stole from banks and crooks. Then twenty years ago, he vanished after one big score. Dead Rabbit #1 picks up when Martin comes out of retirement for one last job, one that may cost him everything.
That may sound like a lot of crime noir stories you might have read. However, Gerry Duggan, John McCrea, Mike Spicer, and Joe Sabino tell a much different story than you might expect. It’s a story defined by avoiding the cliche.
Martin Dobbs was once Dead Rabbit, a violent criminal whose legend grows year by year. Now, he’s the greeter at a big box store, trying to make enough to keep ahead of his ailing wife Megan’s medical bills. When he encounters a crook buying the supplies to dispose of a body, he pulls out the mask and stops the murder. Unfortunately, that draws the wrong sort of attention, just as his wife’s health worsens.
Duggan subverts a lot of expectations in this story. He starts to veer towards cliche several times, then swerves in some very cool and unexpected ways. He also crafts a world that’s close to ours, with some hints of strange differences.
He also does a lot to build these characters. Though there’s strange and fantastic elements in play, Martin and Megan feel ripped right from the real world. Their struggles are struggles many Americans are facing. It makes a masked crook/vigilante so very real, since so few people will be able to relate to the other side of his persona.
I’ve always been a fan of how McCrea reinvents himself with every project. Here he adopts a broader style, but still displays his characteristic grit. He’s able to make the most mundane look great too. He’s able to make a panel of a grocery cart a horror story, making Duggan’s narration hit home.
Spicer shifts his colors throughout the story. When Martin puts on the mask, the palette shifts to blacks and greys, with just small splashes of color. But as Martin, his day is full of photo-real color and light. It’s a very effective shift between the two sides of the character.
I didn’t know if I would like the story, but by the end of the issue, the team had me sold on the book and concept. This is a great book for any noir fan.
Dead Rabbit #1 is available now from Image Comics.