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Filler
By Rick Spears and Rob G
Published by AiT/PlanetLar; $12.95 USD

If you can imagine Frank Miller needing to hire out Rick Spears and Rob G to put together a quick fill-in Sin City story, you'll have some idea of what Filler feels like. The stark black and white, with red used as a spot colour, clearly evokes Miller's most recent style. The gritty crime story, filled with double-crosses and hookers and violence, similarly feels of a piece with Sin City. But Rick Spears and Rob G are no Frank Miller, and Filler is no Sin City. And I don't even like Sin City all that much in the first place.

So I am a bit ambivalent about Filler. The lead character's job, to stand in as "filler" in police lineups, seems to stretch credulity, although I suppose there must be people who do that in real life. The world created in the graphic novel feels false, as if the only people who inhabit it are the ones that are onstage in any given panel. The use of red as a spot colour is far less effective than the manner in which Miller and other artists have used the effect. The red seems, at times, to be there only because it can be, not to add visual impact or enhance the story. For example, when we see the hooker character with her shirt off, her nipples are an unnatural blood-red, a jarring moment that destroys the willing suspension of disbelief in a story that seems fairly bent on that as a goal, anyway.

Click to enlarge image. G's artwork is fine in some spots, awkward and unconvincing in others. The ending is far from clear -- maybe two male characters have traded identities or something, but neither the art nor the story are able to convey the true meaning of the final couple of pages.

I've read worse comics. I've even read worse crime comics. But nothing in Filler rises above average, and it dips a bit below that in some crucial areas such as believability and clarity. It's not terrible, but it's not terribly good, either. Grade: 2.5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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