The Gray Area #1 (2004)

Detective Chance is an amoral guy. It’s his job to go after drug dealers and other scum of the earth. He’s a cop, that’s his job. But he can’t resist skimming off the top, making a little scratch for himself on the side. He doesn’t care; he’s a self-involved creep whose main concern is making himself happy. Or what amounts to happy in his sad, pathetic life. His wife bores him, his partner only exists to help him to achieve his personal goals, even critically injured criminals are forced to wait as he takes care of his personal needs. He’s a jerk, an ass, give him any name you like. If you ever met Chance, you wouldn’t like the guy. By the end of this comic I was sick to death of Chance. All throughout the issue, when he wasn’t wallowing in self-indulgence, Chance was wallowing in self-pity. Towards the end of the issue, I was rooting for this creep to get shot.

And lo and behold, he does get shot near the end of the issue and the story picks up a bit. We see a two-page glimpse of …something… that suggests that Chance’s story might have a bit of redemption built into it, an arc from evil to good perhaps. In any event the last few pages are intriguing. I wish there were more of those pages and less of the setup, but I have to assume the setup was for a good reason. As it is we never see Chance in the power harness he wears on the cover and which is mentioned in the “sketchbook” section in the back of the issue, making the cover a bit of a cheat.

JR Jr.’s art is just what you’re used to from all the comics he’s done over the years. It’s slick and competent, slick and solid in the way it always is. If you’re a JR Jr. fan, you’ll like it just as much as his other comics work, no more and no less.

Romita Jr. and Brunswick deliver 32 pages of story and art in this squarebound 48-page $5.95 comic. The last sixteen pages are devoted to sketches by Romita and comments by Brunswick. They’re nice, but they double the price of the issue over what it would be if it was normal-sized, and we readers get no additional insight from it. This is a ripoff for us readers – we’re forced to spend twice as much for the comic with its bonus features than we would if Image had released the comic as a 32-page book. The way I see it, Image owed me a free issue of Savage Dragon or something to make up for the extra cash they forced me to spend on this book.

After spending time in the amoral world of Detective Chance, I felt rather dirty. He was a seedy, creepy world he lived in. He deserved to die. I hope his story will get more interesting as this series rolls along, hopefully in a 32-page, $2.95 format.

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