Chip McFitz: A Dame in Starlights by Mat Greaves – Reviewed by MQ

October 21, 2017

This little gem is charming, effortlessly readable and great fun. It’s beautifully crafted from start to finish and, for those of us with a penchant for classic noir-style fiction, nostalgic and inventive in all the right ways.

 

Artwork

Chip McFitz: A Dame in Starlights (McFitz henceforth) has a quirky comic style reminiscent of comic art at the time the story is set, which is a nice touch. The characters are roughly humanoid, with anatomical precision being sacrificed for outlandish expressions and animated action. At each moment through the story we’re left in no doubt as to what the characters are feeling (except where ambiguity is desired), and you quickly move on from the bean-like nature of the players. The comic is also beautifully colored and thoughtfully lettered throughout.

 

For the most part, McFitz is laid out in a very traditional 6 panel format, but here and there the artist breaks out of this to highlight something special or really pound the action home. The artwork is effortless, as is the writing and text placement. It all fits compactly in place; clear evidence of panels and characters which have been well thought out and carefully crafted.

 

Writing/Plot

McFitz is your classic gumshoe, noir detective tale from the perspective of a story-hungry journalist with a coffee fixation. The comic deals with a lot of classic noir detective tropes but without laboring over them. Instead, the throwback clichés and idioms serve to nicely place the comic in its proper setting.

 

Comedy also plays a big role in McFitz, mostly of an incidental kind, revolving around the protagonist’s unhealthy addition to coffee and the shenanigans that ensue when McFitz comes down off his caffeine high. The coffee angle is a nice touch, particularly where the artist has it directly impact on the art and story of the comic. It serves as a neat little vice for the protagonist, without overtaking the story.

 

As the story progresses and the investigation deepens, the author brings in an archetypal private detective figure (cast in black and white no less) to assist the hapless reporter McFitz. This meta-commentary on the noir detective genre doesn’t overpower the story, but just adds to its comedic value.

At every stage McFitz utilizes classic noir motifs, yet they are never tired or trite. Partly, this is due to the rapid pace of the comic, but also I think to the skill with which it is told and drawn.

 

Characters

The comic’s protagonist is at once lovable, relatable and funny—precisely because he see’s nothing funny about the world in which he lives. He’s the perfect straight-comic figure; a character that allows us to laugh on his behalf.

 

Other, lesser characters within the McFitz universe are no less skillfully rendered. They perform their roles like well-rehearsed actors and are instantly believable. At no stage in reading the comic, did I feel like the characters were stilted or unrealistic. But neither were they overly predictable, in a bad sense. There’s a strange kind of comfort found when characters in a classic genre piece like this behave in a way that’s true to their nature. In part, that’s why McFitz is such a comfortable and enjoyable read. It carries the reader along and is a joy to read, precisely because there’s nothing sticking up out of place; nothing to pull your attention away from the central plot of the comic.

 

[Bass players forgive me for what follows!] A bass guitar player friend of mine once said that bass is at its best when you don’t really notice it. It folds so well into the music and carries the overall sound along so effortlessly that most people couldn’t identify it as its own instrument. The reverse is true – when the bass is too overbearing, or off pace, it sticks out like a pubic hair in a bowl of pea soup (or something to that effect).

 

The point is that the characters in McFitz give way effortlessly to the story’s protagonist and support his adventure rather than sticking out of place and being noteworthy for that fact.

 

Best Panel/Spread

There’s a lot of great artwork here, but for me two places really stand out. The first is the scene of a car accident which initiates the plot. True, within the comic world of McFitz hit is probably how a horrific car accident might look, but to be honest I couldn’t help but burst out laughing when I got to this point. I’m not sure if the author intended it to be that humorous, but something about the way the victim is positioned makes me piss myself every time I look at it.

 

 

The second fantastic piece is the page where the protagonist first experience caffeine withdrawal. I won’t show the page here, because you really have to see it for yourselves

(https://gumroad.com/matgreaves#), but it’s beautifully executed and immediately understandable for anyone who’s made it to 10:30 on a Monday morning without a coffee.

 

Value for Money

Worth buying for the artwork alone – the story is a bonus!

Head here for more details: https://gumroad.com/matgreaves#

 

Excitement/x-factor

What makes this comic great for me is the fact that every page and panel is well thought out and beautifully crafted, making it a joy to read. Damn it, I need a coffee.

 

- MQ

 

 

 

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