Gravedigger Volume 1: Hot Women, Cold Cash (2015)
A fortuitous tweet in my timeline on Friday night afforded me the opportunity to buy Gravedigger Volume 1: Hot Women, Cold Cash for the bargain price of £2.50, over at Comixology. I’ve been aware of this film noir inspired comic series for a while but simply hadn’t gotten around to doing the right thing and supporting its creators Christopher Mills and Rick Burchett. Having now corrected this error I can now confidently state that Gravedigger thoroughly deserves all the plaudits it’s garnered of late. It’s been a while since a comic has grabbed my attention in this way and offered a thoroughly immersive experience.
Volume 1 contains both parts of the 2015 story The Predators as well as the 2004 tale, The Scavengers. Both adventures centre on career thief and professional criminal “Gravedigger” McCrae; a hard, ruthless and calculating man with a weakness for the ladies and cold cash. The Predators finds McCrae in Florida for some rest and relaxation. When he wakes up next to the dead body of local mobster’s daughter he has to look to his wits to avoid both hired killers and the local wildlife. The Scavengers finds McCrae hired to plan a weapons heist and cutting a side deal with a femme fatale. Multiple double crosses lead to a desert showdown with no good outcomes.
What makes Gravedigger so compelling are its broad horizontal canvases and lean black and white art style. Rick Burchett’s artwork is tonally right, providing sufficient detail and pacing without getting bogged down in superfluous embellishment. Christopher Mills’ dialogue is very direct and he does a great deal with only a little. Both stories speak for themselves, yet there is depth and substance despite the lean and mean approach. It is clear that Burchett and Mills understand both the medium and the genre the story is set in. Gravedigger is aimed at a mature and savvy audience.
If you like the wise cracking, hardboiled literary thriller genre as well as the anti-hero driven crime movies of seventies, then Gravedigger has all that you need. It exudes atmosphere, menace and wry humour. The stories are concise and perfectly paced. If only Hollywood could make movies as classy as this. As for the Lee Marvin vibe that clearly runs through Gravedigger, what more can I say than it just works. McCrae even speaks his lines in Marvin’s sardonic tones when I’m reading. It’s a sublime embellishment. Therefore Gravedigger definitely gets the Contains Moderate Peril seal of approval (for what it’s worth) and I look forward to Gravedigger Volume 2, as soon as it becomes available.