Written by Eric Skillman
Art by Jhomar Soriano
120 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions
Brevity may be the soul of wit, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of comic and book creators from turning out some huge creations over the years. Maybe that’s what I initially found so refreshing about Liar’s Kiss by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano. Clocking in at just 120 pages, I feel like it’s in many ways a lesson of how to tell a story at just the right length. Not too long, not too short, and ready to jump into the conclusion before it overstays its welcome.
Liar’s Kiss is a comic that at first seems familiar; a private investigator spying on a woman to prove that she was faithful to her husband, only to reveal that all this time she’s been cheating on her husband with the private investigator. And when the husband turns up dead, through various twists of fate the pair of them realize that their little game may have plunged both of them into the hot seat. Here’s the thing, though; we learn the first piece of information on page three, and we’re not even a dozen pages in before the next piece is revealed. Each new chunk of information is paced out perfectly; we learn more about Nick Archer the investigator, Abbey Kincaid the cheating wife, and all of the other characters at a speed that keeps you jumping and guessing. And with each reveal, you start to realize that there’s no one in the book you can trust to give you an honest answer.
Skillman never makes Liar’s Kiss feel rushed, even as it moves at a sharp pace, and that’s not an easy feat. I think that it’s the greatest strength of the script, able to unfold the story at a good clip but somehow still have time to stop and explain everything in good detail. It certainly helps that the protagonist of Liar’s Kiss is a private investigator, so Nick Archer has time to stop and ask people what’s going on, what their relationship to the Kincaids is, and so on. But even then, I never got the impression that we were getting huge information dumps or visits by the exposition fairy; it comes across natural and entertaining. The continual escalation of the plot of Liar’s Kiss certainly helps that overall flow; Skillman never lets the book feel slow or dragging, two words that are often associated with a lot of explanations in a book.
Soriano’s art in Liar’s Kiss is interesting and attractive; in some ways it reminds me a bit of taking Frank Miller’s earliest Sin City art and then stripping it down in terms of the number of lines, and avoiding the heavy blacks. There’s a scene early on in Liar’s Kiss where Nick comes to talk to Abbey right after her husband is discovered dead, and it’s beautiful; just a handful of lines to carve out the edges of her hair and blouse, a few more lines used for the facial features and tears running down her face. It’s a level of minimalism that is impressive in part because of how much expressive detail is still achieved. Add in some good sequential storytelling and you end up with a good looking crime book. It works at the smaller dimensions, and it’s got an attractive cover that pops out with its use of black and pink; not necessarily a combination you’d associate with this genre, but it feels right.
Liar’s Kiss is a book that I think quietly slipped by a lot of readers when it was published this time last year, and that’s a shame. It’s a fun read, one that moves quickly and then lands a strong conclusion before there’s ever a chance for it to drag. Skillman and Soriano have created an enjoyable noir graphic novel in Liar’s Kiss, one that deserves some attention. I’ll happily read more books by then down the line.