Monday, September 28, 2015

The New Deal (Dark Horse)

via Jonathan Case
writer/artist: Jonathan Case

That woman on the cover is actually the third lead, by the way, after a bellhop named Frank and a maid named Theresa.  The woman is Nina, and to say more about who she is would be something of a spoiler, but if you've seen The Dark Knight Rises, The New Deal might almost be described as Christopher Nolan's comic book caper sans Batman.

Theresa is black, by the way, and in a story set in 1930s New York, she's also an actress in rehearsals for Orson Welles' Macbeth.  Welles doesn't really factor into the story, by the way.  That part of New Deal has more to do with Jonathan Case's continuing fascination with working Shakespeare into more modern storytelling without actually using Shakespeare's stories to do it, as he did in the delightful Dear Creature (review here).

Case is an unusual talent.  Dear Creature took me by complete surprise when it was released four years ago.  I was pleased to read more of Case's work, and all the more surprised to find that other than the Shakespeare link, New Deal isn't really anything like it.  Sure, it's playful in the same enjoyable way, but it's grounded in the real world, even if it's a period piece (that doesn't bog itself down with period details).

Frank and Theresa are both trying to break out of ruts.  Frank is one of those hopeless gamblers deep in debt and desperate to repay it, but even as he realizes Theresa will be able to help him, neither has any idea how it'll actually happen, which makes their mutual acquaintance, the mysterious and increasingly fortuitous Waldorf Astoria guest Nina that much more important as the story develops.

Some readers might find its abrupt ending unsatisfying, but for me, it's more like a representation of the title, which evokes FDR's New Deal, of course, but also the fresh start our leads have attained.  The clash of the poor and rich is also a major theme of the story, with Nina another fine turning point there.

If New Deal isn't as breathtaking an achievement as Dear Creature, it's still another indication that Case is a major talent worth rooting for.