Deer Editor is a strange beast, a chimera in the best sense of the word. Ryan K Lindsay has created a fresh new spin on the Neo Noir genre. While the setting and ambiance of this comic might summon up shades of Sin City, the heart of it feels more like an Agatha Christie novel or an episode of Monk.
There’s a certain breed of crime novel or show that features unlikely protagonists – brilliant eccentrics and odd old ladies – amateurs without the traditional crimefighter’s background. The protagonist of Deer Editor definitely falls into this category. Bucky’s a crime editor with the instincts of a top-notch investigative reporter. Oh, and he’s a deer.
This is played straight – the fact that he’s an anthromorphic deer is never a source of humor or even excessively commented on by the rest of the cast. But it does add a surreal to touch to a familiar formula.
There’s something fascinating about seeing a protagonist with an impressive pair of antlers exchanging witticisms and puns worthy of a Brian Azzarello comic. Little surreal touches like this, combined with word play and graveyard humor, reminded me of an under-appreciated gem, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Like this film, Deer Editor draws you into an immersive and compelling underworld. The comic’s brooding inks and heavy shading summons up a sense of pervasive corruption that lies at the heart of the mystery. Bucky’s stony integrity contrasts sharply with the amorality of the antagonists.
In many ways, Bucky is the embodiment of a certain trope found in detective stories. He’s a man of action with a heart of gold, a somewhat embittered individual who balances cynicism with integrity. He’s also a gentleman who, like Marv of Sin City, doesn’t hit a dame. In one of the action sequences, he fends off a would-be female assailant without injuring her grievously.
This is rare enough to be refreshing in the world of modern comics. Brutalization of women has become commonly accepted in pop culture aimed at a mature audience. Even worse, it’s often used to titillate the reader. Deer Editor, true to its genre, features its share of female victims but their deaths are handled in a tasteful manner.
Bucky’s animal nature imbues him with what could almost be classified as super-powers. His senses are far more acute than a human’s and his biology makes him immune to an assassination attempt. These gifts, coupled with a trained mind and well-developed powers of observation, allow him to pursue the truth at any cost.
But he’s far from infallible. Sometimes his obsession with the story results in tunnel vision. He becomes so caught up in following a certain trail of breadcrumbs that he fails to see the witch’s cottage.
By giving Bucky a fatal flaw, writer Ryan K Lindsay has made him, for want of a better word, human. It’s difficult to relate to a flawless protagonist. Recent renditions of Batman run the danger of making him more a symbol than a man.
Bucky on the other hand embodies qualities that readers wished they possessed yet he’s imperfect enough to be relatable. We can still see ourselves reflected in him. That’s one of Lindsay’s admirable skills as a writer – he can take a pulp fiction archetype and humanize him. Bucky may have antlers and fur but he’s more human than many a modern gumshoe.
Sami Kivelä’s artwork is superb. The comic is black and white but this reads as a smart stylistic choice. Color may have distracted from the artist’s spare line work and elegant rendering. Each page is laid with a minimum of panels. There’s seldom more than three or four panels per page. Despite this, Kivela manages to convey a rich, living world full of atmosphere and menace. Even minor characters are distinctive enough to be memorable. This is important in an intricately woven tale of twists and turns. Bucky’s design is especially impressive – despite being a deer in a suit, he looks like he belongs in this urban environment.
Writer Ryan K Lindsay is on form here. Not only does he craft a solid tale and interesting characters, he also manages to bring something new to this type of story. It’s always a pleasure to read the work of such an innovative writer. As usual, his dialogue comes across as authentic and he deftly handles the protagonist’s inner monologue. With a fine grasp on the detective story and its tropes, he plays with our expectations, sometimes fulfilling them and sometimes deliberately inverting them.
Deer Editor is an engrossing read. It’ll sweep you back to your teens and the forbidden pleasure of reading dime store specials. At the same time, it’ll challenge you and force you to reconsider an established genre. Deer Editor makes you realize that the crime yarn isn’t played out – in fact, it’s shedding its winter coat in anticipation of great things to come.