Written By Steve Niles
Art by Tony Harris
Letters by Bill Tortolini
Published by Image Comics
First issues are a balancing act. You want to tell your audience enough about what’s going on to get them interested, but not tell them so much that there isn’t a mystery going on. Really, it’s like a first date. You want to keep some mystery, but not so much that you come across as just being obtuse. Also don’t show her your Transformers collection too soon. Learned that one the hard way.
Although it does seem like a really nice comic, “Chin Music”, Written by Steve Niles and with art by Tony Harris, is getting a kiss on the cheek this evening, owing mostly to the fact that over the entire first issue it rarely, if ever, deigns to tell the reader just what the holy heck is going on.
Trying to recap the events of the issue would largely be a litany of “And then…someone does…something….for some reason”, which would be both boring and tedious. So here we go. The issue starts with some guy carving some magical symbols into a bullet and a table before firing said bullet out of his window. Cut to a fortune teller in Egypt who gets chased out of his stall by some evil looking robed guy before flying into the air and getting caught and turned into a messy skeleton by some more robed dudes. The guy’s still alive and they basically say “And let that be a lesson to you” before kicking him into the desert to crawl around for a while and then get run over by Eliot Ness. Yeah, no joke. So after they cart the body into town it vanishes into a puddle of goo, Eliot Ness walks off and has a drink and then some stuff involving Al Capone happens. That’s really it. Confused? Wondering what’s going on? Join the club, mac.
The issue tells the reader next to nothing about what’s actually going on, beyond the fact that it involves magic and gangsters. Is it an alternate history where Eliot Ness gets magic powers and kills Al Capone? Is Ness the main character? The fortune teller guy? Can we get a narration or some expositional dialogue or a helpful chicken who tells us what the butt is going in with Morse Code clucks?? Throw us a damn bone here, comic!
The artwork by Tony Harris is decent, though nothing amazing, high on details and a tad on the exaggerated side when it comes to faces. There’s a good sense of color, with pages usually having a dominant color motif to keep things from getting overwhelming.
“Chin Music” probably has a really interesting premise. It probably has a premise of some sort, anyway, though damned if it will tell us what it is. There are glimpses of something really interesting and original here, but an attitude of total negligence or indifference to the audience audience and an inability to just say what’s going on bring the whole endeavor down.