From writer Ollie Masters and artist Eoin Marron, Killer Groove #1 (out May 29) introduces us to Jonny, a down-on-his-luck musician who finds his inspiration and a new calling in the world of killers-for-hire.
The first thing that strikes you about Jonny, our lead character, is how utterly uncharismatic he really is. This is seemingly by design, as the issue goes out of its way when he first appears to show us that no one is impressed by his music, his boss disrespects him, and he has zero luck with the opposite sex. Rather than turning this into a power fantasy for “nice guys,” however, this issue doubles down on this characterization.
The reason this book works so far is that it doesn’t necessarily come across like we are supposed to identify with Jonny or particularly root for him. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating as a character study. Seeing this fella getting his groove back through the most unlikely of avenues is an interesting idea, as is the implication that Jonny feels like a man out of time. He came out west for the “peace and love,” but the world was getting meaner and more violent around him. It’s an interesting (albeit dark as hell) take on the concept of how all musicians have to struggle to stay relevant, to keep up with the times.
On the visual side, this book is a pulpy treat. Body language carries so much of this book in ways that are apparent from even the first glance. Jonny spends much of the issue with a slump to his shoulders, a nervous side-eye on his face. Jonny always looks resigned to his lot in life, while his new friend takes up as much space in his diner booth as he can, his legs splayed in the most “king of the castle” version of repose possible.
Those little details speak volumes about these characters, lending even more meat to their fascinating conversation. It helps that the writer and artist co-created the book together, as they both clearly have a clear vision of what these characters are. All of this character work has come together in a way that only a strong team can accomplish together.
Meanwhile, Jordie Bellaire’s colors lend an almost Old Hollywood-style sepia to the proceedings, somehow managing to make the book feel rose-tinted and grindhouse-y at the same time. The lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou adds to this vibe, filling the boxy word balloons with a style that reminds me of early Mirage comics. It all has a perfectly indie aesthetic that I’m really drawn to.
There were, however, a few moments that felt a little unclear. One or two moments in the middle of a scuffle in the middle of the book seem to break up the action in a confusing way. However, much of this is likely intentional, showing how muddled and harried an up-close fight like this can feel when you’re in the middle of it. This is clearly a stylistic choice, so it’s hard to knock it much and it flows a little better on a re-read.
Killer Groove #1 sets up some cool plot threads in an interesting setting. Pick this one up if you’re a fan of early Robert Rodriguez or are looking for something a little off the beaten track.