Black Mask Studio 2017
Written by Zac Thompson & Lonnie Nadler
Illustrated by Eric Zawadzki
Coloured by Dee Cunniffe
In this bloodsoaked satire of gentrification, an exclusive new restaurant called Pijin becomes the hottest spot in town by serving high-end dishes of human flesh. Where is the meat coming from? No one knows for sure, but a drug addled homeless man named Arnold Timm notices his friends disappearing and is determined to find out if they’re being fed to the rich.
We all know that Black Mask is home to some extraordinary storytelling but even I wondered how a book about cannibalism was going to be told to make it interesting and intriguing. The story takes place in Vancouver, British Columbia and the opening shows us in detail the city’s changing cityscape from 1950 to now. It then immediately switches over to a scene that well is kind of horrific and yet completely captivating and story begins.
I’m really very impressed too because while I hadn’t really known what to expect it surely wasn’t anything like this. I was captivated by the opening where we see what that homeless man goes through. Logically we understand what’s happening here is utterly disgusting and morally reprehensible and yet it’s like that train wreck that you can’t turn away from. This is probably the best opening i’ve seen in ages and it grabs you and doesn’t let you go.
When we meet Arnold we aren’t that impressed by him. We really shouldn’t be either, he’s a junkie living on the streets and he’s rather a mess. However we learn a few things and that’s the city of Vancouver have been able to box the homeless into an area of town known as The Dregs. That there is a corporation that is trying to gentrify the area and that changes are coming fast and furious. All of these things separately don’t make a lot of sense but as the boys begin to seriously weave this tale it all starts to come together in a way that shows us that this homeless man, Arnold, could be any one of us. Just a man down on his luck, disillusioned with life and hiding the fact he’s much smarter than anyone would give him credit for.
Eric and Dee do some amazing work on the interiors here. There’s some great attention to detail here and the use of page layouts along with the angles, perspective and backgrounds we see make this more powerful a story. The creativity here is great as we see Arnold in his drugged state and how he sees things. The opening again is mesmerising to see unfold visually. There’s just something special about what they present to us that is extremely engrossing.
Arnold’s characterisation and inner dialogue is wonderfully done. We get to know this man, feel for him and understand him a little better. He’s caring and loyal to his friends and the journey he’s about to undertake is going to change his life. He’s not exactly ambitious or wants to change his life but regardless that’s what is going to happen throughout the course of this story.
From its premise through its execution this is something incredibly special. You might find the premise squeamish but trust me take a chance on this you’ll be glad you did.