When a grisly murder is committed in the streets of 1920s London American shopgirl Tina Swift is the only one amidst a cast of unabelievably dumb charactesr who could possibly solve the case. She’s just that special.
THE BLACK FEATHER FALLS: BOOK ONE
Writer and Illustrator: Ellen Lindner
Colourist: Ellen Lindner
Assistant Colourist: Andrea Kendrick
Publisher: Soaring Penguin Press via Comixology Submit
Cover Price: $2.99
GENERIC TO A “T”
Ellen Lindner’s The Black Feather Falls: Book One has a lot going for it. It’s set ambiguously during the 1920s in England and features a young Yanky leading lady who witnesses a grisly murder which she then takes it upon herself to solve. Yes, it’s a story we’ve all heard before and that’s the problem. This issue is lovingly crafted and you can tell that Lindner has spent a lot of time working on each page, but that doesn’t stop them being riddled with problems and, ultimately, rather blasé.
We meet Tina Swift (though she is not named for a couple pages yet), in the not-too-distant future recording her memoirs while overlooking the pyramids of Giza and opines that it’s easy to forget things. I despise truisms, so for me The Black Feather Falls: Book One was already off to a shake-y start.
In the past Tina works as an underappreciated shopgirl (of course), that her English boss is not fond of (of course), and it’s during one of these frightfully dull days that she witnesses the murder of a legless amputee. Despite a slough of bobbies present Tina is the only witness who notices that a black feather falls (the title – get it?), from the victim’s Bible (of course). When she points this out to a bobby she is pushed aside and ignored (of course). I’m not trying to make a case that all early 20th century police detectives were the top of their field, but this character is so laughably simple in his dismissal of such an obvious clue that one has to wonder how he got the job in the first place. All figures of authority throughout this issue make Conan Doyle’s Detective Inspector Lestrade seem positively genius.
Determined (and certain that she is more qualified than anyone else), to solve the case, Tina abandons her job and goes to the newspaper in search of Mr. Pertwee – a customer she’s presumably spoken to once or twice before. Instead of Mr. Pertwee she meets his secretary: Miss McInteer. In the space of less than 10 panels Miss McInteer is referred to in Tina’s internal narration as a “harpy” utterly destroying any chance of the readers coming to identify with this character and potentially becoming duped by her; thereby setting up a dramatic revelation of her motives later on.
For no reason that I really understood Tina and Miss McInteer team up, take a sweater away that looks like one worn by the dead man and go to random costume party and by the end of it no one has discovered much of anything illuminating that might forward the mystery or the plot 30 pages later.
Every step of The Black Feather Falls: Book One is step-by-step out of the How to Write a Mystery article I read in my seventh grade English class and the character are less interesting, empathetic or developed than I would have expected from a thirteen-year-old author. The plot of the entire is issue is so stunningly generic it’s almost impressive.
CALM IT DOWN
From the information provided on The Black Feather Falls: Book One I don’t know who did the lettering, but their choice was positively criminal. Whatever the font is wiggly and distracting and very nearly drove me to a headache a mere five pages in. It felt amateurish as if I were reading a child’s diary – which I understand is sort of the point, but that does not save it from being of poor quality.
The art is much the same, I’m afraid. I’ll give Lindner credit for having cute character designs (my favourite thing was Tina’s 20s wavy hair), but the bright, popping colours she and Andrea Kendrick layer on top make the reader have to blink and rub their contacts if they have any hope at all of not feeling too overwhelmed.
Where the plot was too little all artistic choices are too, too much. If the colours had been dialed back (or even muted in a more classic approach to post-war England), and a more rigid font applied then The Black Feather Falls: Book One might have had a redeeming quality to save it. As it stands, the art is sweet at a glance and annoying when taken at a closer look.
DON’T BOTHER CRACK A MARPLE INSTEAD
There are plenty of great stories (comic and otherwise), featuring badass lady detectives, unfortunately The Black Feather Falls: Book One is not one of them. If you want to know every twist and turn before it comes pick up an old Agatha Christie – at least the quality of writing will be there. With a $2.99 price point this issue is just not worth it … and I’m really, really sorry to say that.