Story By: Yves H
Art By: Hermann
Published By: Dark Horse
Renowned Belgian comic book artist Hermann (Jeremiah) teamed up with his son Yves H as writer to give us a pretty stunning trilogy of the American crime world. Dark Horse thankfully collected it all in a gorgeous collection for the first time in English, finally giving us English speakers a look into the neo-noirish world that this father and son team have created. And let me just tell you, it’s fantastic.
Perhaps the thing that stands out the most is how wordy the comic is. Despite having tons of dialogue that often encompasses full paragraphs, it’s not unusual to get a few panels of nothing but text that delves into some of the backgrounds of characters or their inner thoughts. Rather than seem out of place, however, the ample text really supplements the stories at hand. Rather than abide by the rule of mystery, the stories follow the old school method of laying out the crimes and suspects for us point blank and then developing the narrative around whether or not they’ll get away with their crimes or their true reasons behind them.
There are three stories within Trilogy USA and they each give us a slightly different take on the detective genre. “Blood Ties” gives us a story with a great femme fatale character, “Manhattan Beach, 1957” gives us a man haunted by his past as he seeks justice, and “The Girl from Ipanema” gives us a pretty straightforward murder that we then watch as people struggle to both solve it and undermine the investigation. While there are certain reoccurring themes present throughout, each story is widely different from the others that they are strong pieces on their own.
“Manhattan Beach, 1957” probably ended up being my favorite story within them as had some of the strongest themes, a great story, a mysterious past, and a pretty shocking finale that was completely unexpected. In fact, it’s hard to discuss this entire collection without fear of spoiling something as many times even the smallest detail ends up being the make or break discovery.
And to be honest, these details are what prevents the comic from being perfect. At times the comic is so packed full of people, places, and things that it gets hard to keep track of who’s who (especially when some people use aliases) and what’s what. And that goes double for the stories that use multiple flashbacks. The flashbacks are often shown without any in your face reference to them being flashbacks that you’re often left wondering where exactly it fits into narrative. And when you add in the fact that the comic tends to be pretty wordy, sometimes the only clues you have about a character exist within the text-only panels that introduced them, sometimes panels before they even actually appear in person.
Hermann’s art is beautiful and fans of Jeremiah will be pleased to know that he uses almost the exact same art style within Trilogy USA. It’s all subdued colors with a style reminiscent of a watercolor painting. While it may seem like an odd choice for detective stories, it soon grows on you because the colors and backgrounds are drawn with the emotions, story, and themes in mind. An affair with the femme fatale is all soft pinks and gold while the hunt for the killer is done in dark grays and blues. It makes for an interesting and dynamic design that helps enhance the story.
Overall, this collection is an outstanding comic that I could read over and over again, especially once you learn the little twists and clues throughout. In fact, a reread helps make the stories even more clear as you can sort out some of the characters and events a bit better. Yves H has proven that he’s a fantastic writer in this collection and we can only hope that he does some more work with Hermann as their individual styles seamlessly blended together into a whirlwind of crime.
This is by no means a comic you can easily pick up and put down for a few good minutes of fun, but it is definitely the comic to pick up if you want some deep stories to get lost within for a few hours. Trilogy USA is less like picking up a comic and more like picking up a novel which is exactly how I want my detective stories. If you’re a fan of old school mysteries and detective novels then Trilogy USA is an absolute must-buy.