Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story

Mat Johnson, Author, Simone Gane, Illustrator
Mat Johnson and Simon Gane, DC/Vertigo, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-4012-2160-7
Reviewed on: 08/02/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Paperback - 1 pages - 978-1-84856-845-7
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-1-4012-2161-4
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Set in New Orleans in the first days after Hurricane Katrina, Dark Rain—much like Johnson's lauded 2008 graphic novel Incognegro—uses the trappings of gritty crime fiction to explore deeper issues of race in America. Dabny, a decorated soldier and former customs officer, languishes in a Houston halfway house after being convicted of taking a bribe. Desperate to raise child-support money, he agrees to ferry his bunkmate Emmit into New Orleans's submerged Lower 9th Ward, where Emmit plans to rob his former employer, the Banque de Congo Square. The pair soon runs afoul of (metaphor alert) Dark Rain, a corrupt private security firm led by Dabny's former commanding officer, and some pretty standard caper-movie action ensues. Johnson's dialogue is frequently witty and incisive, and the book's view of the utter failure of public services in the city's poor neighborhoods and at the New Orleans Convention Center cuts to the marrow. Unfortunately, the whole affair is dragged down by the familiarity of its somewhat tacked-on central plot. And while Gane's slightly cartoonish style enlivens the book's moments of wry humor, a neo-noir caper story with a healthy dose of social commentary demands a certain gravity that's missing. (Aug.)
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