In a medium overflowing with bright, bubbly superhero stories rife with hope, a series like CRUDE is a breath of fresh air. A creator-owned title from Justice League of America scribe Steve Orlando and artist Garry Brown, CRUDE follows the story of former Russian hitman Piotr Petrovich as he travels to an oil-refinery-megacity in the hopes of avenging the murder of his estranged son. The second issue of the new series is a kick-ass, action-packed issue that simultaneously builds the world of CRUDE into an unrelentingly hopeless place.
The debut of CRUDE wasn’t a bad start, but spent more time setting up the context of the ensuing narrative than it did actually putting the world and its characters on display. That problem is completely remedied in #2, as readers get a first-hand look into the bleak, hopeless, and violent lives of the resident workers of Blackstone.
The color palette employed by colorist Lee Loughridge really hones in on just how bleak the refinery city of Blackstone is, relying heavily on grays, blacks, oranges, and the occasional splash of crimson red blood. There’s not a single bright or poppy panel in this book, which just further exemplifies the lack of brightness in the inhabitants’ daily lives.
Whereas issue #1 spent a lot of time telling readers what to expect from CRUDE, #2 elects to simply show readers through both its color palette and artistic choices from artist Garry Brown. Most importantly, readers see just how ruthless and experienced a fighter Piotr is. When he removes his shirt to prepare for a fight, readers will notice detailed scars across his body, showing the countless times he’s been shot in his line of work.
Then there’s the fight itself which is just awesome. Too many comic book fight sequences lose their value because they’re too scrambled or don’t feel believable; that is not the case with CRUDE‘s fights. Each brawl movies with fluidity and grace, allowing readers to easily track Piotr’s progress. Every kick, punch, or bat to the face has real impact thanks to the gruesome effects of each blow drawn by Brown. There’s one particular panel that satisfyingly depicts Piotr emancipating teeth from a poor goon’s mouth.
Each fight scene is framed by a moment of truly badass dialogue from writer Steve Orlando. Whether from the mouth of Piotr or a clever retort to a corporate goon, each fight is contextualized by a memorable moment of excellent, action hero-esque dialogue. There’s one line in particular regarding rising tides that had me fired up.
CRUDE #2 also provides insight into the many corporations vying for control of the profitable refinery city. There’s the Petropinnacle Corporation who runs their sector of the city like a ruthless gang, imposing back-breaking tariffs on anyone in their turf. Petropinnacle is quickly confronted by the “good guys,” the Moshe Adam, although they in no way feel like actual good guys.
There’s a consistent feeling of shadiness throughout the issue, especially when the Moshe Adam are involved. Sure, they fight off thugs and aim to win over the hearts of the people, but they imply many times they have ulterior motives to simply gain control of Blackstone for their own nefarious purposes. This elevates the unrelenting sense of despair within CRUDE — even the good guys are still a------s.
The one problem I had in this issue is the lack of progression towards the main story line. The series is supposed to focus on Piotr’s investigation into his son’s death leading to eventual vengance, but there’s little to tie the events of this issue to the greater narrative. Don’t get me wrong, the events are undoubtedly kick-ass, they just progress the plot ever so slowly.
Even without much narrative progression, CRUDE #2 is still a kick-ass issue. Memorable, quote-worthy dialogue, art that personifies the themes of the narrative, and killer action sequences make CRUDE #2 one helluva read. CRUDE #1 may have been the bait to this series, but #2 is the hook, line, and sinker.