Volume 25, Number 01, Fall, 2007


By David Lloyd

Dark Horse, 2006, $12.95
Reviewed by Anders Monsen
November 2007

David Lloyd, co-creator of V for Vendetta, flies solo with Kickback, a gritty tale of a bad cop with a conscience. Published by Dark Horse in a hardcover format, with words and illustration by Lloyd, Kickback at times feels distinctly American, yet could as easily feel at home in Hong Kong or Europe.

A cozy truce between cops and mobsters exists in Lloyd’s imagined world, with everyone on the supposedly good side on the take, and a cynical press and public fully aware of the agreement. When a few cops are corrupt, gradually they’re spotted and removed. But when the entire force is based on corruption, how can anyone in uniform be trusted? At least, as once character remarks, there’s no war between the two forces, and thus no innocents caught in the crossfire. But such a world, where the monopoly of force is no different from organized crime, removes any veneer of justice, and in the minds of the citizens in such a world, why attempt to seek justice? Indeed, in many cases such a society birthed the superheroes that dominated comic books for decades—men and women outside the government working for justice.

A few cops do feel uneasy with the situation, but do nothing. Then, the truce is shattered when several key mobsters are killed in a brutal ambush. Rumors circulate that cops were behind the slayings. In savage reprisals several cops are killed, and suddenly everyone is fair game. The once untouchable police force now appears vulnerable. Cops become targets with both criminals and ordinary citizens almost eager to exact some sort of revenge.

Enter Joe Canelli, a cop with long-standing doubts about the arrangement and anger at the taints within the police department. His journey of discovery finds parallels in his recurring nightmares of long-repressed memories from childhood. Perhaps all these feelings have been building for a long time, surfacing finally to overwhelm him and force drastic action. In order to understand and purge these memories, he undertakes a one-man stand against both organized crime and the mob. Canelli’s past comes to light through interactions with his girlfriend and grandfather, who act as anchors to the world outside crime and law enforcement.

Lloyd’s artwork feeds the story’s flow and emotional impact. He has an uncanny knack of describing action across multiple panels with barely a word, yet also a deft touch with dialog. The denouement felt a little rushed, and one wonders how long it will take before old habits resurface and the police departments or individual crooked cops again seek alliances of convenience with those who work in the shadows.

Described on the cover as a “crime-noir thriller,” it’s all that and more. Like any precarious balance, the arrangement between the cops and mob creates its own destruction. While maybe not as revolutionary as V for Vendetta, Lloyd’s Kickback flows like a novel, with depth and polish beyond just a work of entertainment.

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