“Listen, sweetheart . . . I’m not a complicated girl. I don’t want much, and I need even less . . . That’s the way I like it . . . It’s how I’m glued. I’m not looking for flowers or candy . . . I’m not even looking for caramel centered honesty . . . which I’m guessing fits in well with that circle of white skin round your finger where a wedding ring sometimes likes to sit . . . Don’t explain, honey . . . I don’t care . . . If you’re asking me . . . do I want another drink . . . ? Yeah . . . I always want another drink.”
Noir is often described as a bleakness, a pessimism, a lack of hope or faith . . . and that describes the latest work from Mike Young and Mark Crane to a “T.” Not that that’s a bad thing . . .
Based out of Essex, England, Young and Crane have undertaken a decidedly American tale. Set in a fictional state along the Gulf of Mexico, LIL tells the dark story of a thirty-five-year-old woman, trapped in a dead-end waitressing job with no prospects and little to look forward to, other than her next hit. A dark dive into her barren soul, this series presents a lost woman who makes choices based on whim and fleeting impulse, until a (potentially?) chance discovery leads her down a darker path.
In the first story arc, “Pulling at Strings,” Lil appropriates a duffel bag from a drunk in a bathroom stall, while having a meaningless tryst in the neighboring stall, but what she finds inside shows her that even while she may not find her life worth anything, someone else may have taken a great interest in it.
The second arc, “Rage and Power,” shows us the depths of her self-loathing and the extreme measures Lil is willing to take to defend herself. Most noteworthy is her interaction with her dealer, Merv, and his two junkie sons/muscle. “Once they shared a crib,” he remarks, “now they share a needle.” In a genre already filled with dark and irredeemable tropes, this comes off as particularly chilling.
The included Issue #5 is the first part of another arc entitled “Slice of Die,” which presents one of the best examples of feminine empowerment seen in comics, even if it’s primarily only from Lil’s point of view. And, what person hasn’t wanted to rise up righteous and deal out retribution to some obnoxious mouth-breather whose every action and word cries out for it at one time or another?
Film noir tropes. Nobody’s good. Everybody has a secret or a sin to hide. Lil’s bathroom lover turns out to have more grit than first hinted at. Lil decides her fate on the flip of a coin, because that’s just how much is riding on it . . . She’s going down fast and rough and finding that the hardest target in her life . . . may be herself.
With such strong writing and obvious affection for the field, it turns out that the weakest part of this dark tale is the artwork. In a genre dominated by lights and darks, the lack of subtlety in the pages only serves to detract from the strength of the text. Move past that and you will find a dark and gripping personality profile of a woman going down for the last time and staring at the life preserver like a mortal enemy.