Tracking a criminal called Seesaw to a tenement in Philadelphia leads Detective James Sangster into an ambush and his murder. His son, James Jr, wants nothing to do with his father but has to deal with aftermath of his death. He finds his father kept a journal containing a bizarre theory that the city of Philadelphia is plagued by vampires, led by none other than the second President of the United States. Will James Jr accept the unacceptable and complete his father’s mission? Find out in our Major Spoilers review of Killadelphia #1 from Image Comics.
Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Colorist: Luis Nct
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Editor: Greg Tumbarello
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: November 27th, 2019
Previously in Killadelphia: James Sangster Snr is a dedicated Philadelphia police detective and a terrible father, prone to lashing out at his son when he was a boy. James Jr is a police officer himself, and wants nothing to do with his father, which is difficult now that his father has been killed and James has to deal with the aftermath. His father’s hometown has previously been prey to yellow fever, a strange fact that is connected in a bizarre way to James Snr’s death…
Killadelphia #1 very effectively looks at the impact of the past on the present . Writer Rodney Barnes’ story of a detective killed on duty, and his son’s efforts to find out why, runs parallel to the main storyline, which features events from the past emerging in the present.
James Sangster Jr comes back to Philadelphia to bury his father, killed in the line of duty. While going through his father’s effects, James comes across a journal his father kept. James resents his father, due to beatings he received from his father when he was a boy. Despite his antipathy, James finds the notes in the journal compelling, despite their bizarre tone. Soon, James finds himself treading the same ground as his father, in an effort to discover why he was killed.
Times of political disputation are great for the creative process. You wouldn’t have All the President’s Men without Watergate, for instance. At this moment in America, the politics of the day are influencing and inspiring all sorts of artists – be it movies like The Report or television shows like Watchmen. We’ve seen it in comics as well – I’ve reviewed issues of Dead Eyes, Lois Lane and Vindication for Major Spoilers – all of which tap into the fertile vein of political argument that characterizes America today. Killadelphia #1 follows the same path, though to a lesser extent. It concentrates on the family dynamic between the Sangster father and son, while examining the history of Philadelphia to inform the current threat it faces. It’s clear from Jason Shawn Alexander’s artwork, especially the rundown tenement but also the glimpsed graffiti, that politics will feature prominently during this series.
ART WITH BITE
Speaking of art, Jason Shawn Alexander’s distinctive work on Killadelphia #1 is compelling and forthright. Barnes’ storytelling is good, without breaking out of the tropes of family drama and police work. It is Alexander’s artwork, with the vivid imagery and splashes of colour, the composition of panels and the pandemonium of the tenement Sangster Sr dies in, that gives this issue its distinctive favour and power. Even a one small panel, where we see gray, taloned hands reaching for the older Sangster’s face, is full of stark imagery. There’s a slight distortion to Sangster’s head, as if to convey the utter shock of what he sees reaching for him, that really packs a punch. Luis Nct’s coloring helps immeasurably here – great swathes of red and ochre and brown convey the decay of the inner city, as well as indicating the hidden threat the Sangster Sr has uncovered, and an unwilling Sangster Jr is trying to believe.
BOTTOM LINE: COMIC FRIGHT NIGHT
Killadelphia #1 is a very strong opening issue, filled with vigorous, powerful artwork that sets it above a large number of its peers. I appreciated the filial angst between son and father, and the possibility of redemption for Sangster Sr. Some of the best crime stories aren’t about the crimes themselves, but about the flawed characters trapped with the machinery of the plot. Killadelphia #1 is one such story, and if it is flavored somewhat with strange creatures of the night, it is a seasoning that I suspect many readers will savor long after the final page is turned.
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An interesting take on the vampire tale that doesn’t necessarily follow the usual tropes but instead forges a different path, embracing family, history and the current state of politics in the US.