Kickback: David Lloyd's Forgotten Gem
By Dan Horn
July 27, 2011 - 15:03
"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
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
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.
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.
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: April 9, 2021 - 22:22
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