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Is it Good? Violent Cases Review

Dark Horse is re-releasing a hardcover of Violent Cases, written by Neil Gaiman, with art by Dave Mckean. All new colors and material are inside from Mckean. Let’s step inside and see if we can tell through all the cigar smoke if it’s good.

Violent Cases (Dark Horse Comics)

What is there to say about Neil Giaman’s work in comics? It’s entirely unique. I’m far from the first to state this, and I won’t be the last. Still, to go back and see his early work is great. Violent Cases is a story about how memory works, and how it can sometimes function in strange ways. Gaps get filled in by the brain, to simply have something in place to facilitate the rest of the memory. In Violent Cases, our narrator recounts how as a young boy he was taken to Al Capone’s old osteopath after his father hurts his arm. It’s a wonderful and realistic example of how narrators can often be unreliable, sometimes not due to an intentional omission of the truth, but rather due to a failure to remember everything that occurred exactly as it did. For instance, the look of the osteopath changes halfway through the comic, and he goes from an older man who looks Einstein-esque, to a man who looks much younger, and resembles a bootleg era gangster.

Dave Mckean’s style of art is multilayered, which I always find riveting. In Violent Cases, we have many background images at play. Definitions of a word underneath the panel, and various images underneath, as well as what appear to be real photographs allow the visuals to work on many levels. Even the use of panels is interesting. On page 35, when a birthday party magician causes something to explode, we have the onomatopoeia, “BANG,” and the lines around this word appear to be exploding.

Mckean’s use of color is also impressive. On page 40, we have a single panel, white with a stark, vibrant blood pool in the center. It’s one of many sparing uses of color, and it makes the blood look much brighter. The rest of the comic switches between sepia tone and black and white. It works well for a piece on memory.

The art style itself is sketched, and you get to see the sketched in lines. Beautiful, really. Proportions are f----d around with a lot, as well as angles. It’s neat.


  • A fine example of Gaiman’s early storytelling prowess.
  • Engaging and multilayered work from Mckean.
  • The pace is a bit slow, might take a bit for readers to get into the story.

Is it Good?

If you’re looking for a story that’s unique, which has good characterization, look no further. However, if you’re expecting a lot of explosions, or a fast-paced book, this probably isn’t the comic for you.

If you’re a Gaiman or Mckean fan, definitely pick it up if you can afford to. It’s about twenty or so dollars, so I wouldn’t buy it on a whim if you aren’t familiar with the style of work Gaiman and Mckean have produced in the past. It’s a good read—great even—but I have to admit, it’s so much to take in that at first I had a bit of trouble getting engaged. I have a feeling it will hold up to a reread quite well. Add to this a great intro from the original release found at the end of the story, written by Alan Moore, about the state of comics, and Violent Cases is worth its 20 dollar price tag.


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