Written and Illustrated by Rich Tommaso
Published by Image Comics
Released 4/11/18 / $12.99
Rich Tommaso is another on my growing list of cartoonists whose work I’ve ignored but when I finally take a look at it I really like it. Case in point: Rich Tommaso’s Clover Honey: 1995 Artist’s Cut.
The original story came out more than 20 years ago, but the current version from Image is more than just a reprint.
In the accompanying text, the author describes redrawing the whole first sections of the book as he was unhappy with it after his own style had progressed quickly during the creation of the original version.
The whole book has been relettered, too, in a style that vaguely evokes various indy hits including Love and Rockets and Daniel Clowes’ various works.
The text matter brings up the rear on this one. Instead, we open with a couple of quotes, including one from Overstreet’s FAN that praises the book’s best feature in my own mind as well—its pacing.
Tommaso’s storytelling is impeccable here, deftly using both visuals and dialogue to carry the story along, slowing or speeding up the pace as needed but making even the smallest moments linger in the reader’s mind.
The story itself is a typical tale of the mob on one level but a much deeper character study on another. After a very brief, quiet, cinematic opening, we meet Trevor and Abbie, newly teamed as collectors/enforcers for the Family. Abbie makes a mistake on their first outing but Trevor promises to smooth it over for her with the boss, who happens to also be her uncle.
Only the atypically nerdy-looking Trevor disappears along with the collected money.
The book’s title refers to the horse Trevor plans on betting the money on. Seems he’s done it before, delivered in full, and pocketed the rest of the winnings. Only this time something happens along the way.
The bulk of the story has Trevor on the run and Abbie assigned to find him for her uncle. There are no good guys here, and both protagonists are shown to have some severe flaws. The reader’s loyalty shifts from side to side as the book delves in and out of some unexpected territory for a crime story.
The black and white art is of the trendy ‘90s style of Clowes or maybe Charles Burns but the way Tommaso works his storytelling skills quickly makes you forget any comparisons. ‘The back cover rates it “M” but if this were a movie, it would get a full “R” for explicit language and images. Definitely not safe for work, but if you’re at home and appreciate a well-written crime novel or a well-directed noir film, this book might be right up your dark alley.
I have to say, though, that there is one important drawback to Clover Honey, and that’s the ending. No spoilers. I’ll just say it doesn’t make any sense to me. After more than 100 pages of nary a wasted panel and no filler, the story just seems to stop on what seems a meaningless close-up.
Don’t know if I’m just missing something or Rich just didn’t have the best ending in mind but either way, it’s not a dealbreaker. Like many things in life, Clover Honey is about the journey, not the destination.