Publisher: Alterna Comics
Writer: David Lucarelli
Artist: Henry Ponciano
Cover: Henry Ponciano
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
Tinseltown had been an idea that had intrigued me ever since Alterna had announced it. A historical comic based loosely on real policewomen working in Los Angeles in the early 20th Century struck me as a novel idea that hadn’t often been done. The premise reminded me somewhat of the video game L.A. Noire, which likewise dealt with an honest cop that is forced to navigate the corrupt world of Hollywood.
The other reason I was intrigued by this is that it seemed like a personal project to writer David Lucarelli. By his own description, the character of Abigail Moore draw influence from his mother’s story as a policewoman in the Pittsburgh of the 1980’s. There is a connection and an investment by the creators into this project, and passion always interests me as a reader and as a reviewer. I wanted to see what kind of story would motivate Lucarelli this deeply.
So far, Tinseltown is a promising beginning to what could become a solid historical crime comic.
I was captivated by this particular cover almost immediately, even when it was being solicited. Some of this comes down to the character of Abigail, who strikes a strong heroic figure in this image. There is a stern, gritty determination in her face as Ponciano draws her, which helps establish Abigail as the book’s lead. The background silhouette of a black camera along with the white lights clearly show ultimately what Abigail will be dealing with in a simple visual cue. Likewise, the choice of red is a solid one, since it’s a strong color which contrasts with the solid blue of the policewoman’s uniform. However, I also appreciated the use of dramatic text on the cover, using a simple text blurb to lure the reader into the action. It’s the sort of technique that only works in comics, and the classic ones work for a reason.
Henry Ponciano delivers some solid visuals in this first issue. One of his strong points as an artist is his effectiveness as a visual storyteller. The layouts provide some good camera work, and each frame is appropriately tailored to the script. Ponciano also brings a good sense of visual characterization, and the body language and expressions get the emotional content across well. Faces look distinct from each other even when multiple characters are wearing uniforms. Additionally, the art portrays the time and place credibly; clothing and backgrounds both look period accurate and there aren’t any notable anachronisms that I spotted. Some of the panels are a little sparse on background at times, but otherwise, the art helps to create the setting and tell the story behind it.
While it isn’t made specifically clear who the colorist is in the credits, the most likely suspect is Henry Ponciano. Regardless, whoever is responsible for the colors should be commended for the strong lighting work in this issue. The lighting here places the correct focal point in perspective, whether it’s Abigail or the other major characters in the story. The lighting and the background shading also does a good job of conveying time, mainly through the flashback scenes from Abigail’s perspective. These contrast nicely with the more contemporary scenes focusing in her present, which focus on her struggle to establish herself in Hollywood. There are times when the backgrounds change color for no discernible reason, even though the scene is set in the same room, but these are not common occurrences. Mostly, the coloring is reasonably good and works well with the story being told in this issue.
Though I’m unfamiliar with the work of HdE, their lettering work in the issue is solid and consistent. Fortunately for them, the script is relatively lean and the art offers a good deal of open space, leaving the letterer room to work. However, in this case, there is so much open space that the placement of the captions becomes an important task. In that respect, HdE accomplishes this goal, using the captions to fill the gaps in the panels while not cluttering them. The word balloons are only as large as they need to be, with the speakers clearly attributed. There aren’t any sound effects in the comic at all, but they’re mostly not really needed for a story like this. Mostly, the captions and the balloons tell the story, and these are well-placed and don’t call too much attention to the letterer.
Although this is primarily a setup issue that is designed to introduce the reader to Abigail and the world of early Hollywood, it succeeds quite well in that respect. Mainly, where it succeeds is with the character of Abigail herself, who is both reader surrogate and anchor to the proceedings. Although the script doesn’t hammer too hard with her motivations, it’s clear that she feels she has something to prove to her parents and to the people who dismiss her. She wants to do honest police work like her father did, but she must endure degrading work for the studio as a way of putting her foot in the door. I found her sympathetic, and unfortunately, it may well be there were many women like her in Los Angeles at that time.
Most of what you’ll find in this issue is Abigail’s life history and the story of how she gets her current position. However, much of this is enlightening to those who aren’t familiar with the early film industry, and Lucarelli speaks with an authoritative voice on that subject. The research appears to be quite solid, and there aren’t any glaring inaccuracies that hold the comic back in any way. The element of culture shock as Abigail is faced with the shady reality of Hollywood is believable, if quite disheartening. The other aspect is the setup to the real meat of the story, though it’s too early to make sense of what looks like the ongoing mystery of the mini-series.
If there are any criticisms I might offer for this issue, it’s that the story feels like it drags just a little in terms of pacing. While it wasn’t enough to take me out of the comic, it does have the feel of slow, methodical setup. It’s perfectly possible the pace may quicken later now that the main players are established, but the issue does spend quite a bit of time on Abigail’s backstory leading into her role as a policewoman in Hollywood. In fairness, though, these details may be important in later issues, and the pacing issue is minor in the scheme of things.
If a historical crime comic set in early Hollywood sounds even remotely interesting to you, then Tinseltown is worth giving a chance. Although there is room for some improvement, it’s a good setup issue that brings the reader into Abigail’s world and captures the tone of classic Hollywood. I expect that future issues will move faster now that the pieces are set in place here.
It’s usually quite easy to recommend an Alterna comic with their pricing, and $1.50 is definitely a good price to take a chance with this book. However, even leaving the pricing aside, this would still be worth checking out if you have the money to spare on it. The story of Abigail is interesting, but I’m also compelled by the real-world story behind this book. This book comes across as a labor of love by the creators, and so Tinseltown earns a star-studded 8.5/10. I’m interested to see how the creators follow up on this opening issue, and where this Hollywood story ends up taking Abigail from here.
Written By Steve Sellers
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