Revenge, the Noir Way

An article by, Aaron Burton

Though it is often used for ironic or nostalgic purposes, noir-style media is a popular choice amongst artists and producers. A lot of us may remember the fictitious noir movie Filthy Souls seen within the movie Home Alone. We often see episodes of our favorite cartoons where the characters temporarily don the apparel of the old-school detective. It is hard to forget the femme fatale known as Jessica Rabbit.

Noir was a style of movies that were predominantly made in the 1940s and 50s. Noir filmmakers used German Expressionist cinematography when making noir films. German Expressionist art is typically known for its use of piercing angles and deep shadows. A classic example of this can be seen in the 1955 film The Night of the Hunter. Noir films are typically crime dramas. Think of the iconic image of the gumshoe sitting in his dark office as a beautiful woman walks in with a new case.

Comics books are no stranger to the noir way of doing things. The 1970s and 80s was a turning point in comic books. The once-campy heroes were now showing their darker and more serious side. When I think of noir comics my mind instantly goes to Alan Moore’s run of Batman and Frank Miller’s run of Daredevil.  The latter was so iconic that influenced a noir-parody featuring four adolescent terrapins.

Old Wounds is a noir crime mystery written by Russell Lissau. The artwork is done by John Bivens with lettering by Josh Southall and Steve Wallace. The book is published by Pop! Goes the Icon. There are currently four issues of the comic book. They can be purchased individually or in a single trade paperback. The book premiered in April of 2015.

Lissau spins a familiar tale of people bringing up the past to enact vengeance. Michael Lane used to be a masked vigilante but has since retired. He is forced to revisit his past after his ex-wife, who also fought crime, was murdered. The story spirals as more and more of Lane’s former accomplices are murdered. While teaming up with a local detective, Lane is sent on an adventure to find out who is enacting revenge on his friends and loved ones.

Bivens’ art is amazing to say the least. There are many aspects to the artwork in Old Wounds that are both creative and innovative. The book is completely black and white, but finds itself holding many different layers of style. The artwork can be abstract at times and often uses many different forms of shading in a seemingly chaotic manner.

The first thing that caught my eye was the creative use of Ben-Day dots. There are panels where Ben-Day dots are overlapping traditional shading. The dots even seem to appear on top of the art, sometimes blocking some of the details from view. This was an interesting departure from the classic pop-art style Ben-Day dots are most known for.

The depth and range of Bivens’ art style lends itself to Old Wounds’ gritty pulp style. Black and white comics pair well with noir-style stories as they are reminiscent of black and white noir movies. Bivens seems to take this a step further by finding creative ways to draw shadows and darkness.

I thought Old Wounds was an entertaining detective story. As the list of suspects began to narrow I began to get more and more excited to find out who the culprit was. I found myself spending a lot of time studying the panels. Each panel seemed to take on its own personality and style. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of gumshoe detective stories and interesting art styles.

Old Wounds is available for digital download on Comixology. It can also be purchased though Pop! Goes the Icon’s website at

1 comment:

  1. i am such a huge fan of indie style old school movie and shows and this makes me so happy! i could relate to so much in this post. thank you for sharing!