“Love Town is a city built upon a foundation of corruption, violence, and greed, where millionaire celebrities rub shoulders with ruthless gangsters and scheming politicians, where the figurative magic of the silver screen competes with the literal magic of the streets.
Magic is the siren’s song that lures so many in Love Town to their doom…”
Published by 1First Comics, issue four of Love Town documents the climatic ending of the first story arc by co-creators/writers John and Matt Yuan. John and Matt also share illustrative duties: John provides the art while Matt completes the digital shading. And, as with all of the issues, Ken F. Levin completed the creative team by providing his expertise as editor. Given that this is the last issue, below is a review of the current and prior issues.
In issue #0, the Yuans state in their series introduction that “in Love Town, nobody has paid a higher price than the infected. […] Relegated to the lowest rung of society, the infected are forced to eke out a living doing only those jobs others can’t or won’t do.” Not only are the infected – vampires, werewolves, and ghouls – rejected by society, but for many of them, being infected was thrust upon them. Suddenly, they are struggling to find normalcy and a new sense of identity.
It was a year ago that the debut issue was released, dropping readers in the middle of a late-night stakeout in a shady part of downtown Los Amores (Love Town), an homage to Los Angeles/Hollywood circa late 1940s. The black-and-white visuals with red accents lend well to the classic noir story – with a paranormal twist – that follows a recently turned vampire, Detective Saxon. A woman and an infected, she’s set up as a difficult heroine (or perhaps anti-heroine?) because of her gender and her station in society, accentuated by Saxon trying to come to terms with her recent infection that turned her from human to vampire. Her volatile tendencies – the need to feed on blood – are exploited by her superior, Subs (a human), as a way to keep her in line and manifest a scary reputation for his police unit. A pivotal bit of dialogue sets up the entire series:
Detective “Allie” Saxon: …it was easier to not care what people thought about you when they were thinking about you. Now, everyone just acts like I’m not even here. Or worse yet, they try to pretend I’m still normal. They talk to me in that voice you use for puppies, asking me how I am without really wanting an answer. Like if they ignore what my life has become, it’ll make me feel better.
Subs takes advantage of her vampirism, overriding the sense of justice she believes. As she works to find her identity, she relies on what she knows: She just wants to be a cop because, “It’s all I’ve got left.”
Boom! Boom! Boom! In this issue, Detective Saxon has been undercover at a posh mansion when she discovers the dead body of a visionary artist at one of his parties where the rich and mobsters rub elbows. Saxon is shot and left bleeding when a fellow policeman withholds aid because he is afraid of becoming infected. Compassion is replaced with ignorance. A scene with her doctor, an immigrant from China provides yet another side of the ignorant attitudes. He chose to seek out a better life in Love Town even though it was less than enthusiastic to embrace him.
In trying to reconcile her place, the Yuans portray Saxon’s body as curvaceous and sensual. Just like the cover, Saxon in a strapless, form-fitting red dress surrounded by men’s shadows becomes the token woman. This position is first countered by her and the doctor’s bashful flirtations, but later confirmed when Saxon interrogates the mayor’s wife who is revealed to have exploited Saxon condition as an infected by her promotion to the investigation unit. The wife articulates Saxon’s ease of being undercover: “…It’s not just the clothes or your hair, darling. It’s…your whole attitude. Why, it’s almost as if you were more comfortable being someone else.” In other words, sometimes, it is much easier to embody a whole new persona where the troubles are set aside; however, insecurities and the past have a way of catching up and all of the baggage must be faced.
Saxon comes under scrutiny for some of her undercover activities that were not illegal, but were measured on a scale of strict morality. One could say that Saxon is subjected to gendered double-standards, and, in this case, the stakes are high. She refuses to feel remorseful or guilty for her decisions, and, as the object of the investigation, a crisis takes shape: “Regular people” (humans) find themselves in a predicament, because while they try hard not to see the infected, they are forced to see Saxon.
Who is Saxon? The cover of issue two displays her fragmented and parceled into a series of photographs. For this issue, Saxon has begun to find herself. Readers learn more about her, particularly her feelings of abandonment by friends and family, her support system. Society sees her as having lost her “human”ity, but, in this issue, she begins to find hope that is encouraged by a relationship that is developing with the doctor. In fact, the volatile, angry woman of the prior three issues smiles!
Saxon refuses to stand down and instead follows her intuition. As a result, she unravels the case which the Yuans have expertly crafted over the intervening issues. The core – identity – has been a predominant theme, and the climatic twist plays with that idea. John and Matt deliver superb visuals that are intense, disorienting, and, when lingered upon after closing the issue, unnerving. Did Saxon find herself? Readers will have to read the series to find out the ending…
As mentioned in all of my reviews, John and Matt excel with their visuals, which lend exceeding well with the noir genre of Love Town. They evoked Frank Miller’s seminal black-and-white illustrated Sin City or Will Eisner’s The Spirit or any one of the fabulous cinematic noir films of the 1940s. The Yuans push the boundaries of black-and-white space, and the splashes of red create tension and intrigue while delivering a visual punch that is not soon forgotten. Each panel could easily be mistaken for high-art storyboards, and, more than once, this reviewer thought how wonderful a film Love Town would be if realized for the silver screen. Levin’s editing is impeccable, creating a seamless balance of text and visuals. The Yuans may serve up a new story arc in the future, but in the meantime, don’t delay in seeking out Love Town which is truly a feast for the eyes, but also for the mind.
Creative Team: John Yuan and Matt Yuan (writers); John Yuan (artist); Matt Yuan (shading); Ken F. Levin (editor)
Publisher: 1First Comics
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