Hot women; cold cash. That’s not a threat, but the promise Christopher Mills and Rick Burchett are making in Gravedigger. Unfortunately, I don’t particularly care if my women are hot, because I don’t want to have sex with them anyways, and I prefer my cash nice and warm from my coat pocket after forgetting it’s there.
Gravedigger follows the black-and-white adventures of visually-sculpted Lee Marvin doppelganger McCrae, a.k.a “Gravedigger”. These adventures include but are not limited to: unsuccessfully evading mobster goons for the one murder he did not commit; being on the perpetual lookout for a good “score”, and indulging in his vice of young babes who mostly want him dead. Shooting down the airplane of a former flame/business partner’s wife after she’s already tried to take him down is just a typical day at the office.
First off, drawing Gravedigger entirely in black and white perfectly captures the noir-feel of the comic. It highlights McCrae as a character quietly without being too overwhelming. Speaking of McCrae, The Gravedigger himself, there is something refreshing about him. He’s not your typical action hero, though ‘hero’ is used loosely. He’s old enough to be your Dad, as many of the other characters like to quip; however, you’d think the same after seeing that Dad-shirt he’s sporting on the front cover. He’s a self described detail man with a pension for wisecracks and monologues. And in those monologues, he reveals just how unapologetic he is. After being framed for the murder of his recent lover and mob boss’ daughter Eva, McCrae doesn’t really care that she’s dead. It’s more of an inconvenience for him. He wonders briefly a little later who murdered the girl. Not Eva. The girl.
He’s also acutely aware of who he is as a person. In a conversation with Eva, you know, pre-murder, she goes on and on about how different McCrae is from other guys, or criminals, she’s met at the hotel. These great big beasts of men. McCrae, buried in what I assume is a Scotch, coolly tells her he’s exactly like everyone else. A character who totally owns their behavior is someone I can definitely get on board with.
McCrae’s personality is only a fraction of the comic, and hopefully you like him, because he’s the only character you get to know. You can’t expect secondary characters in a comic titled Gravedigger to stick around long before being bumped off, but none of the other characters make a lasting impression. The women are there just to have sex with McCrae, then if given the opportunity, will kill him, while the men, if given more than a few lines of dialogue, are jealous thugs who also want to kill McCrae.
There were also lost opportunities with developing McCrae more. At one point, McCrae is tied up on the back of an air boat, but it’s okay. He has a razor blade with him. He carries it with him because his step father used to tie him up back in the day. What!? You cannot just casually slip that in there like it’s nothing! Did he murder his step father? If he did, was that his first kill? I have no idea, and that blurb felt like a throwaway line.
How McCrae escapes the air boat with his life and all his limbs is another issue in Gravedigger. Everything is a little too easy for McCrae. I don’t doubt he’s some master murderer and manipulator, but that’s only because everyone around him is basically an idiot. For example, on the air boat and hours with these mobster goons who want to torture him for killing Eva, McCrae nonchalantly congratulates head honcho goon Dominic, one of the jealous mobsters, on framing him for the murder. A nameless goon then starts to wonder out loud that maybe McCrae didn’t kill Eva. Oh now you’re just thinking this? Did the musky, swamp air make you think rationally? Don’t worry, he gets shot for being a dumbass. A lot of people meet their maker for that reason in this comic.
McCrae must have some superhuman healing abilities, because he should have died, several times, and he didn’t. At one point, he gets shot, point blank, from mere feet away from the shooter. And she misses! She leaves his not dead body rotting on the side of the road with a bullet in his side. Did she run out of bullets? That’s just not a smart way to close a business deal.
I briefly touched on the artwork earlier, but I think the artwork, along with the black-and-white, really blends well together for this comic. There are many distinctive facial expressions when secondary characters do bad things. Dominic has his close-up, sweaty murder women face. Angel, one of McCrae’s partners/lovers, has a crazy murder face when she pulls a gun on McCrae. There are many little details drawn in the comic, and as a reader, you can tell Burchett put a lot of care into illustrating. Perhaps he’s also a detail man like McCrae…
There was one panel that gave me an unsettling feeling, which also illustrates a bigger issue with the comic as a whole. McCrae eyes Eva one day stepping out of the pool, and she takes forever getting out that pool. In one frame, her head is completely cut-off, so it’s just a panel of her, um, torso, I’ll say. The women in the comic are viewed purely as sex objects, and that could be forgiven if the comic was presented from McCrae’s perspective. But it’s not. And it’s not as if Gravedigger is the only one guilty of this, and it’s a larger issue with the portrayal of women in all comics. But I’m not reviewing all comics. Not today, anyways.
Overall, if you’re a fan of action with a strong and cool lead chasing his next big score and hot tail, Gravedigger may be the comic for you. If you’d like to read more up on McCrae, head over to www.gravediggercomic.com.
Think my review was fair? Think I don’t have the proper appreciation for noir? Comment below, or sound off on our Twitter page!