REVIEW: Newburn #1 Introduces Us to Comics’ Newest Hard-Boiled Detective

newburn

Who, what, when, where, why, and how? The world of Newburn gets into the gritty details of these questions in its premiere issue. Writer Chip Zdarsky’s time on the main Daredevil title ends this month after a run since 2019, and Newburn is his newest book that might satisfy fans of his looking for another dark series. Although Zdarsky has been known for comedic writing on titles such as Sex Criminals or Jughead, Newburn is decidedly serious with only brief moments of levity to keep the book from being too monotone. In addition to Zdarsky, Jacob Phillips multi-tasks as the artist, colorist, and letterer.

Newburn #1

Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub (Artist), Frank Cvetkovic (Letterer), Jacob Phillips (Penciller, Colorist, Letterer), Nadia Shammas (Writer), Chip Zdarsky (Writer)
Image Comics
November 3rd, 2021

The book centers on Easton Newburn, an ex-cop who now works as a private detective for mafia crime families in New York City. He’s paid by the mob to investigate whodunits, be it murders, thefts, or any other slights to the competing families. This unique concept will allow a flexibility in the stories the book can tell. It will give Newburn the liminality to move between loyalties, families, and their conflicts. Issue #1 concerns the death of Carmine, a member of the Albano family who stole from them and whom they have now cut off. Witnesses and security cameras see a man in a bright orange jacket leaving the scene, seeming to be naïve enough to mark himself as an obvious and identifiable perp, but the issue avoids making things too simple and easy for Newburn. He deftly navigates a twisting and finely-detailed one-shot mystery to an unexpected conclusion. Although the mystery wraps up by the end, it opens up an ongoing story with one particular newly-minted relationship that Newburn will need to tread carefully.

The art in issue #1 creates a cohesive world for Newburn, his associates, and suspects to navigate. Newburn himself is a cleanly-drawn character with the hard-lined face you’d expect from a detective who’s seen it all. Every page or two facing pages have their own color palette that sets a tone for each unique place and situation. It helps note transitions not only between spaces but between moods as well. Despite changing visually throughout the issue, the story feels tonally consistent and earns this satisfying approach to color palettes.

Writer Nadia Shammas, artist Ziyed Yusuf Ayoub, and letterer Frank Cvetkovic bring to the table a backup story called “Brooklyn Zirconia” that changes up the flow of Newburn’s main narrative. The backup story features more fluid, painterly art and far less dialogue, situating us in the middle of an action sequence that might be difficult to follow on the first pass-through, but feels interesting and worth rereading for comprehension due to its distinctness.

Newburn will prove to be a new staple on pull lists for those looking for a great crime comic series. It introduces a compelling lead who’s almost impossibly perceptive, but like the best stories with highly-intelligent characters, he still feels grounded and believable. For those not as interested in crime stories or the hard-nosed detective type, Newburn might prove to be a little too cynical. Whatever the case, it seems like this will be another successful book for Zdarsky and his team.

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