Back to Brooklyn #1

Written by Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Mihailo Vukelic
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

With Garth Ennis’s run on The Punisher now over, I was starting to wonder where I could get another sharp, well-written crime drama on that same level. And, as if on cue, Back to Brooklyn showed up, a new mini-series co-plotted and written by Garth Ennis. No super-powers, no fantastical elements, just a gritty real life drama involving the mob and someone trying to get out with his family. But would it be able to measure up Ennis’s earlier highs?

Bob Saetta surprised the police when he walked into their headquarters and offered to give up anything and everything he knew about the mob. As he’s the number two man in the Saetta crime family, that would be an immense amount of information. But when Bob’s brother Paul catches wind, he grabs Bob’s wife and son. Now Paul has to go back into Brooklyn and rescue his family before things manage to go from bad to worse.

Back to Brooklyn was co-plotted by Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti, then written by Ennis, but I actually can’t detect either one of these writers in the finished product. The story unfortunately came across as really by-the-numbers and dull; long bickering scenes between police officers in a hallway go nowhere towards grabbing the reader’s interest, and the pace of the book in general seems to just plod. Back to Brooklyn #1 should be a fast, exciting opening to the mini-series, but it drags from the minute it begins, which seems to be the kiss of death for this kind of comic. Worse, it actually felt in places like it was someone trying to (unsuccessfully) mimic Ennis’s penchant for oddball characters. A mob boss that makes the whores he rent sing "The Good Ship Lollypop" while he has sex with them? Really? Maybe it sounded funny in the outline, but the actual execution of the moment flies like a lead balloon. It’s like the story is being quirky for the sake of it, rather than evolving naturally.

When I first opened up Back to Brooklyn, the initial pages of art from Mihailo Vukelic seemed pretty sharp, with a strong portrait of Bob that looked both realistic, and still like something that was drawn instead of an actual photograph. Unfortunately, that was an impression which quickly faded the more I looked at the pages of the comic. The problem I had with Vukelic’s art is that it comes across as increasingly photo-referenced, as if he rounded up a group of friends and photographed every single scene before either lightboxing or scanning the images. The problem with that is when you do something like that, there’s a good chance that your action scenes will come across as very stiff and posed, and that’s exactly what we have here. There’s no sense of motion, no visual cues that make you think that people are moving. There’s a real difference between how someone looks when holding a pose versus actual movement, and it’s incredibly lacking here. It’s a shame, because when it comes to scenes where everyone is supposed to look static (like that opening shot of Bob sitting down), Vukelic’s art isn’t bad at all. But in a book that has Bob bursting into a room and a fight breaking out, well, that’s not good. It’s even worse when two characters talking in a hallway just look fake and artificial. Hopefully in later issues, Vukelic will get a little better about this sort of thing.

I really wanted to like Back to Brooklyn, but after this first issue I’m not sure I’m ready to come back for a second issue. In the end, this mini-series comes across as predictable and flat, and that’s everything that Ennis’s run on The Punisher was not. It’s a real shame—this could have been so much better.

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