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Kickback: David Lloyd's Forgotten Gem


By Dan Horn
July 27, 2011 - 15:03

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"I bet you've never heard of this book," David Lloyd said as we wrapped up our conversation about V for Vendetta. He drummed his fingers on the hard cover volume on the table before him. I raised an eyebrow and admitted that I hadn't, asking naively if this was something new.

"No, it came out quite awhile ago," he laughed. It had been picked up by Dark Horse several years back, and then, for some reason, it was sort of swept under the rug without any marketing. He went on to mention how hard it was, likewise, for retailers to purchase volumes of Frank Miller's 300 from Dark Horse even when the film adaptation was in theaters. "Why would they want to sell any books?" David's question dripped with caustic sarcasm.

The book in question was a graphic novel called Kickback. The name alluded to police corruption, but the connotations to the story David Lloyd told therein were endless: the recoil kick of a revolver, the kick in the gut reality meets idealism with, the reciprocation of violence on city streets between gangs and police forces.

David handed me the book and gave me the dubious task of giving it a look and writing about it. Shit, I thought, I hate it when writers do that. What if I hate the thing. What do I tell them then? Do I lie? David's a legend, one that's coming fresh from some publication woes. He's got thick enough skin and quite a legacy to fall back on. And, so, I decided it would be a good idea to give Kickback a good critiquing.

I sat down and read the 96-page volume carefully, and when I was finished I wasn't at first sure what I was feeling. What the hell did David Lloyd just make me read? The strange, callous pacing, the near-subliminal imagery set into Lloyd's charcoal chiaroscuro artwork, the lack of genre-specific sound effects, the prosaic dialogue in lieu of a modern setting: It's like a dream, like a bad dream, which is appropriate considering some of the subject matter. There's a cold, modern detachment from the inexorable societal entropy the book extrapolates from the horrors of news headlines and rampant violent crime, an unaffected calm in the face of the incongruities of the contemporary American city, the fly on the donut, the beat cops casually watching transients kill each other to keep their cover. The tone set by these factors is unsettling and quickly seeps through the thin bandage of crime noir.

Kickback concerns a police detective, Joe Canelli, not even an honest cop himself, uncovering corruption running deep within his own department after a ganglord is slain under questionable circumstances. A war between cops and gangsters seethes just beneath the surface of the headlines and Joe is on its battle front. All the while, something about his past is incessantly gnawing at the back of his mind and pervading his dreams. His addled grandfather becomes an unlikely source of clarity, the old man with his pathological obsession with airships and vintage sports footage representing the moral compass that the neoteric decay of humanity has left us deprived of. Horrifyingly, its a voice of reason interspersed with episodes of dementia and fits of rage, the last throes of a dying age.

There's a foreword David Lloyd had written for one edition of V for Vendetta or another many years back that describes a certain pub he stopped in where a sickeningly jocund barmaid switched off the news because it was a downer. Kickback is David's direct response to this, an uncompromisingly cynical and misanthropic portrait of the public's lack of concern for or of its content familiarity with all of the awful things that happen right outside of our pubs and our homes.
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Kickback has a rather conventional premise, one which brings to mind many crime thrillers of the past, but it's been warped by the bitterness of experience and perspective. It's a parable of debilitating guilt and the lengths one must go to overcome it, and it's definitely one of the most unique and interesting things I've read in quite awhile. After reading this, it would be ridiculous to assume that the brunt of V for Vendetta's success was carried by its co-creator Alan Moore. Here is where Lloyd proves he's one of the medium's most valuable, yet under-utilized, resources. Kickback's subversion unfolds in your subconscious like origami in water, and it will keep you restless at night with dreams of whales and airships.

Visit www.LforLloyd.com for more information on Kickback and David's other projects, including his plans to collect several of his previously un-anthologized short stories.

Rating: 9 /10


Last Updated: July 2, 2020 - 15:05

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