At first look, Partners seems to be your run-of-the-mill corrupt cop story…and it is. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Just like every rom-com, every fairy tale, and every vampire love story, every gritty detective story has its classic storyline.
Partners starts out with detectives Lombardo and Vaneli as they handle a job on the corrupt side of business, dealing out damage and handing over men they don’t know much about to a man named Angelo for the sake of better money than they get from the precinct. From there it takes all of one page to figure out which stereotypes our main characters are: Lombardo, the Tony-Stark-goatee-wielding, lady-loving, greedy rule breaker with a loyal heart of gold (or maybe a silently less precious metal), and Vaneli, the bitter head-of-the-white-picket-fence-family man who, though he hasn’t done anything wrong in the great scheme of things, somehow rubs you the wrong way from the beginning. Think of your first impression of Woody Harrelson’s character in season one of True Detective.
As we get into the story, we get our natural crime drama ‘B’ story, a la Law & Order, NCIS, etc. There’s a killer on the loose, a serial killer of children who’s kidnapped another child that Lombardo and Vaneli are tasked with finding. Along the way, we learn more about the two detectives that more or less just seek to support the stereotypes that were set in the beginning.
On the ‘A’ story side of things, Lombardo and Vaneli are assigned men to “take out” for Angelo, resulting in a very Boondock Saints-esque shoot-out in a basement, complete with a guy hiding in the bathroom that their loose-cannon temporary third partner, Vinnie, takes out with an overzealous beating to the face.
The rest of the 44-page graphic novel runs true to the traditional hour-long screenplay, both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ stories reach climatic ends, complete with their own twists that twist with each other in an ending that is enjoyable but not entirely surprising or satisfying.
Overall, Partners has elements within it that I very much enjoy. And even though it’s a graphic novel, I reference films because it reads a lot like some of my favorites. It’s got the gritty urban shoot-outs of Boondock Saints, the borderline offensive dialogue of Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and the corrupt, two-timing characterizations of The Departed.
Where I think it falls short, however, is the more television aspects of its pacing. Clearly intended to be a one-shot, it has the feeling of trying to fit a series into an episode. A lot of the plot and the resulting climax of Partners depends on the relationship between Lombardo and Vaneli and the audience’s sympathy for that relationship. I found myself hungry for a deeper, more complex characterization of both men, more backstory on their history as partners in this precinct and just more chemistry. Without it, the character developments that do occur feel a little forced, and the end left me with a shrug of the shoulders. Why should I care what happens to Lombardo or Vaneli when I haven’t been made to feel much sympathy for them?
Another reason this hit a couple speed bumps for me is the art style. While it is very well rendered, well colored, and a refreshingly brighter color scheme than I expected for a gritty drama novel, everyone’s faces are very similar and there’s not a lot of variation in skin tone. The only identifying factors are glasses and facial hair, and even then sometimes it’s hard to remember who’s who. It’s hard to sympathize with characters when you have trouble telling them apart.
That being said, Partners was still an enjoyable experience. If you love grit, gore, crime and corruption and the buddy cop mentality as much as myself, then you’ll have a good read. And if you aren’t familiar with the way stories of that nature generally go, then I think you’ll enjoy its twists and turns even more.