cover image The Black Diamond Detective Agency

The Black Diamond Detective Agency

Eddie Campbell. First Second, $16.95 (138pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-142-3

Campbell is one of the premier cartoonists of his generation. So what's he doing working on a book adapted from a screenplay by C. Gabe Mitchell? It's hard to say. John Hardin, a man with a criminal past, ends up framed for a horrific Midwestern train bombing on the eve of the 20th century. Hardin is captured-mysteriously his name is found planted on boxes of nitro at the scene-but escapes and heads for Chicago, the Secret Service and private detectives hot on his trail. He's got a notion of the men (and one woman in particular) who are likely behind the bombing. Campbell's adaptation starts quite literally with a bang, setting up a gripping criminal mystery driven by the gruesome explosion and a selection of deft, emotional images from Hardin's past. But the work is very soon plagued by confusing plot turns and Campbell's awkwardly painted, static artwork. Campbell cleverly uses the story as an introduction to industrialization and the growth of technology in turn-of-the-century America-with previews of police forensics, photography, subways and cars. But a bewildering progression of sometimes indistinguishable characters makes the whole enterprise somewhat hard to follow. A promising work though clearly not Campbell's best.