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Noir Drags You Into its Mysterious Worlds

I’m quite relieved to read that Noir can function as a standalone work. Currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter, this is the first of Stuart John McCune‘s sci-fi comics that I’ve read, but Noir is in fact the seventh instalment in his darkly evocative world of weird sci-fi, which includes such past titles as Monologue, Cold Colony and The Human Beings. What exactly Noir is remains elusive to me. Parts of it feel like a heist gone wrong, parts of it feel like a murder mystery, and parts of it feel like an emotionally-charged sci-fi drama.

In a word, I might describe Noir as… scattered. Its an exceedingly loose comic. Its six strips are snapshots of a larger story, with characters prowling in and out of the overall narrative. This is a complex comic to unravel, something McCune surely knows. Written and illustrated entirely by himself, Noir hints at an intense vision-in-my-head vibe at play. Stuart’s characters are disjointed from reality, the art drawn as if looking through a corrupted lens. The whole affair feels like an hallucinogenic trip through shadowy motives and unfriendly players.

Despite being a backer of The Human Beings Vol. 1 when it was funded through Kickstarter last year, it remains on my to-read list, for my sins. The speed at which this review comes to you means that it’s had to remain on that list. I can’t help but feel that contextualising Noir by reading The Human Beings would gladly help in understanding McCune’s vision. However, Noir flaunts a subtle thrust that feels all of its own. Noir is rarely in a rush to deliver things, yet it quite firmly grasps you, plunging you into these worlds that aren’t quiet real, yet aren’t quite fantasy either. They’re breaking, rather than fully broken, from something truly recognisable. These stories and characters occupy themselves in a retro-futuristic limbo, one that looks plucked from the mid-20th century, but whose characters and themes feel closer to today.

One thing that I can be certain about is the artwork. It’s here that Noir‘s limbo nature is at its most buoyant. McCune’s decision to illuminate Noir in a floodlit-esque style of black and white implants a jarring level of danger into the stories. The contours of the characters are pleasingly erratic, adding to the comic’s psychedelic atmosphere. There’s fierce detail embedded into the landscapes these stories and characters reveal themselves in, but just what the detail’s meant to be is kept at arm’s length.

Noir slips back into the shadows as quickly as it leaps out of them. I still can’t decide if I enjoyed the comic or not, but I remain compelled by its vagueness. Its transcendent attitude doesn’t offer anything close to a linear narrative or traditional character development. It may shoot off in a thousand directions at once, but the glorious artwork and preposterously layered premise hooks you in and encourages you to journey deeper. In my case, I’ll be journeying straight into The Human Beings, at long last. I don’t want this strange trip to end for me just yet.

You can discover more about Noir via its Kickstarter campaign, and more of McCune’s work through his Millicent Barnes Comics imprint. Will you be journeying through the darkness with Noir? Let us know in the comments section below or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara