GRAPHIC NOVEL and TRADE PAPERBACK (TPB) REVIEWS

by The Masked Bookwyrm

Media Tie-In Stories - page 2

CSI: Thicker Than Blood 2003 (SC GN) 48 pgs.

Written by Jeff Mariotte. Illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, and Ashley Wood.
Colours: Fran Gamboa, Ashley Wood. Letters: Robbie Robbins. Edited by Kris Oprisko.

coverBased on the the TV series.

Interview with creator Anthony Zuiker.

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by IDW Publishing

Media tie-in comics often used to be disappointing -- too often seeming simplistic or watered down versions of their inspiration. Maybe it was because too many comics seemed to be written and drawn by creators who often didn't seem that familiar with the source material -- and didn't much care! Or maybe it was that I just had too high a standards, taking it too seriously (oh -- so-and-so would never say that! What a stupid comic!) Whereas I'm more easy going these days.

Whatever, I've enjoyed some media inspired comics lately.

CSI: Thicker Than Blood is based on the hit TV series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It's one of a series of CSI based stories from publisher IDW -- including other one-shots, plus some mini-series (not to mention comics based on the TV spin-off CSI: Miami).

And for fans of the show, it does a decent enough job evoking the series -- for good and bad.

Scripter Jeff Mariotte tells a straight, investigative/detective story, as the CSI team investigate two separate cases (as the series' episodes often split their attention) -- one involving an attempted mob hit, the other, the disappearance of an Elvis impersonator. And it all seems pretty evocative. The characterization is minimal as the heroes' personalities take a back seat to the cases -- like in the series -- but Mariotte has enough feel for them that the dialogue and quips seem appropriate to the different characters (like the opening scene where an off-the-cuff remark by Nick leads to Gill launching into a pedagogical speech revealing his knowledge of obscure trivia). And the Elvis case also evokes the series' penchant for having cases embroil the characters in various fringe sub-cultures and professions (actually, CSI -- the series -- is kind of reactionary when you think of it, tending to portray any alternative group as weird and twisted; I mean, this is a series that could make people who play a Scrabble-like game seem like freaks!)

Actually another way the comic evokes the series is in the short shrift given the Sara character. I'll confess, I think actress Jorja Fox is kinda hot, and I used to watch the series, in part, for her...and I began to notice that her screen time seemed less and less (I half wondered if she was being punished for a contract dispute she had with the producers, but the actor who plays Nick was also involved, and his part doesn't seem diminished). Anyway, in this story, of the five CSI's, her part is the most negligible (mind you the coroner guy only appears in a few panels!)

Artist Gabriel Rodriguez does a decent enough job evoking the actors, and has a realist, understated style that suits the story. And even his original characters look realistic, so that you don't have a jarring contrast between the actor-based drawings and the made-up characters (he might well use models for some of them, too). In a bit of gratuitous titillation, the characters' investigation requires them talking to some strippers...and Rodriguez handles the, um, aesthetics of those scenes quite well, too (keeping it just this side of being "mature readers"). Though the overall colouring is a bit drab and grey -- not quite evoking the glaring sun of the Nevada dessert. When the characters speculate about a case, and we flashback to re-enactments, a different, stylized art style is employed by Ashley Wood -- it's an interesting trick, making it obvious we're seeing a speculative flashback, though the style makes it hard to entirely tell what's going on.

The down side to all this is that the comic is full of talking heads, discussing facts and figures. Mariotte and Rodriguez do a good job keeping the energy up, but it's still a bit dry. As mentioned, the series itself is often more plot driven than character-driven, but even it usually works in some sort of emotional/character element. As well, there aren't many twists and turns to the cases (the way the series would often have a case start out seeming about one thing, then turn out to be something else) and there are so few suspects introduced, that there aren't many surprises in the solutions. And there was also some questionable logic, particularly regarding the time frame. I don't think the title has any meaning, per se, and I'm still not sure why the story seems to open with the explosion of a pirate ship -- nothing more is said about it, so I'm guessing I misread the visuals.

This also features an interview with CSI TV creator, Anthony E. Zuiker, which is perhaps as amusing -- unintentionally -- as it is insightful. Zuiker, for instance, says that after having done CSI and CSI: Miami, he thinks a third series could only be justified if set in another country, that something like -- to use his example -- a CSI: New York would be pointless. But, of course, just a year or so after this interview, they came out with CSI: New York! Zuiker also goes on to talk about the realism and accuracy of the series...when I've read articles interviewing real forensics experts who complain the series sets up false expectations of what they can do. And even a lay person can pick up on the implausibility of much of it (just like the series MacGyver used real scientific theories...but in unrealistic ways).

Anyway, enough of my snide tirade...

Thicker Than Blood isn't a classic example of CSI, but it does evoke the series, in story and visuals, and should be fun for fans during the dry months of summer reruns.

Original cover price: $__ CDN./ $6.99 US



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