From the acclaimed DC Comics writer and the artist of the #1 New York Times bestselling and National Book Award–winning illustrated trilogy March comes a stunning crime noir graphic novel exploring the intertwining threads of crime, conspiracy, racism, and insanity in the post-World War II Deep South.
After World War II, tensions rise in a Southern city ruled by organized crime, touching countless residents as they struggle to make sense of the new world. A sudden act of violence sets off a series of bloody events between the police and mafia as they lash out against one another. As the violence worsens, desperation grows to stop it, by any means necessary.
Told in multiple perspectives—from a seemingly untouchable mafia don, to a gun-happy seasoned detective succumbing to the depths of his schizophrenia, to a newly minted police lieutenant haunted by his recent service in the war, and two African-American brothers, one mired in corruption and the other leading a local militia in an effort to see that justice is served—Two Dead is at once a white-knuckled and unputdownable thriller, a roman à clef inspired by true events, and a book about post-traumatic stress disorder and the underlying social traumas of how war and segregation affect their survivors on all fronts.
The plot rocketing this dramatic, socially conscious crime story is fictional, but its fuel is the true tales that Jensen (Cryptocracy) dug up as a crime reporter. The graphic novel starts in 1946 with clean-cut but haunted war hero Gideon joining the Little Rock, Ark., police force. He's tossed into a car with his opposite: Chief Bailey, a cigar-puffing volcano of an officer, whose mind is unraveling. Together, the men knock the legs out from under the sadistic Mafia psychopath running Little Rock's seamy criminal underbelly. The standard buddy cop narrative is given fresh weight by Bailey's delusional mania ("I am the cleansing flame"). Told in parallel is the tortured family history of African-American brothers Jacob and Esau, who are operating on either side of the law, and yet must both face the biblical fury and collateral damage of Bailey's vendetta. Jensen further tangles the narrative with vividly depicted historical detailing, such as the militia-like black police force that operated in tandem with the white police. The noirish, harshly shadowed art from Powell recalls his work on March, with a brutal dusting of Frank Miller. The Southern gothic atmosphere and sedimentary layers of guilty consciences read like one of the (better) seasons of True Detective. This lurid, violence-spattered crime graphic novel might be made up, but the questions it raises are a real gut punch. Final color pages not seen by PW.