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THE WHITE SUITS VOLUME #1 Review: Violent Noir Action Thriller

The White Suits are a complete enigma. Originating as a destructive force during the Cold War and suddenly disappearing like a candle flame snuffed, few ever understood their true nature or purpose. The White Suits documents their sudden and equally disruptive reappearance, and their investigation by two determined souls amidst a strong turf war between the White Suits and the gangs proper.

The White Suits is a story in the mold of a classic noir thriller and mystery. Frank J. Barbiere is responsible for the story and Toby Cypress is in charge of the art and colors. The first volume of The White Suits is promising is many aspects like its story and art on a general level. However, the volume as a whole exhibits several weaknesses that, while certainly not fatal for their work, do serve as points of detraction for the work as a whole.

Story

The central question of volume one of The White Suits is, in fact, who the White Suits even are. The story documents the investigation of the unlikely duo of FBI agent Sarah Anderson and the amnesiac Prizrak amidst the backdrop of a massive underground war between all the proper gangs and the enigmatic White Suits.

For the most of the volume, the story is gripping and is pushed along rather nicely by the constant impetus of the White Suits as well as the main characters’ motivations. Little is often revealed about the nature of the White Suits, but the clues both large and small that their appearances leave allow the plot to develop at a brisk pace.

Even with several perspectives to consider, the plot never feels over saturated by viewpoints and thereby avoids being a confusing narrative. Instead, each of the viewpoints observed by the plot allows a more complete picture of the attempt to unravel the layers of the mystery of the White Suits.

All the mystery and noir thriller action, however, hides the fact that, ultimately, the pacing of The White Suits is a bit uneven and hectic. This is in fact made most apparent by the end of the volume, where the reader slowly comes to realize that nothing of substance has been learned about the White Suits. If any answers are to come to light near the end of a volume like that, it is undoubtedly going to be delivered poorly and it will be very rushed. Sadly, this is exactly the route that The White Suits takes.

Wishing to fulfill the need for a neat and tidy conclusion, the mystery of the White Suits, Prizrak’s identity, and the fate of Sarah Anderson’s father are all revealed in short order at the end of the volume. These central questions are understandably illuminated closer to the volume’s conclusion, but they collectively lack the impact they would have generated singly because of their close proximity. Further, the lack of time left at that point forces all of them to be revealed in a tell-and-not-show manner, which is perhaps the epitome of poor storytelling. All three of these central plot points are closed through a quite lengthy speech by the big bad. The ending leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth and by its nature reveals a lack of proper pacing and forethought in the story’s earlier chapters.

Characters

As for the characters in The White Suits, only the two main characters truly get enough focus to be worth discussing. FBI agent Sarah Anderson seeks the truth about the enigmatic White Suits in an attempt to understand the disappearance of her father many years ago. Her partner in the spotlight is the amnesiac, Prizrak, whose fragmented memories leave the pursuit of the White Suits as his only avenue to his identity.

These two characters take up the majority of the spotlight for the length of volume. The attention given to them is neither undue nor wasted; both Sarah and Prizrak are strong characters with a dynamic between them to match. Their unlikely circumstances of the formation of their partnership help in establishing their entertaining relationship. True to the form of The White Suits as a whole, their relationship never devolves into an easy out of romance or the like. Rather, it evolves organically over the course of the volume in the distinctly unique way a mutually hellish and determined pursuit of a fatal enigma might be. There develops an understanding and sympathy for both of the characters, seen by the audience objectively and also through either of the characters and how they view the destructive spiral of the other.

Neither Sarah nor Prizrak reinvent the wheel in their personalities or backgrounds, but it is not necessary. The White Suits carries the two of them well through its plot and their personalities are well executed within the framework of the plot. Sarah Anderson is the young and rash FBI agent whose fast rising star is purely the result of her manic obsession with the truth behind the White Suits. She stays true to this motivation for the entire course of the volume, and it is consistent with her inexperienced and somewhat naïve nature. Of course, one might allege that Sarah is a bit deprived of proper character development by the end of the volume as a result, but the direction her character took is a more than defensible position. Prizrak is more sympathetic of a character and much of his perspective in the story generates it for either himself or others. His amnesiac self is kind but with rough edges all around that signify the nature of his forgotten past. Overall, the two main characters of The White Suits serve as proper epicenters for the bulk of the plot.

Art

An initial distinctive point about the art of The White Suits is its predominantly black and white color scheme. This lends itself well to the classic noir crime atmosphere that The White Suits tries to establish. The dichromatic color palette actually helps accentuate the appearances of the eponymous white suits even more.

At times the black and white color scheme is interrupted by highlights of red. These generally help to distinguish important visual aspects of a given scene in The White Suits, at times highlighting the red blood of a grievous injury or the red suit of a particularly haughty character. Earlier in the volume, this is used to great effect and really aids in accentuating any given scene. As the volume progresses, the effect begins to feel a tad overdone. The usage of red is a bit too liberal in its application and it serves only to oversaturate and desensitize to an otherwise useful aesthetic tool.

As for the art itself, it works very well in establishing and remaining consistent with the direction of The White Suits. Even with few colors to work with, Toby Cypress manages to present a plethora of detailed and distinct character that all thematically coincides with the dark and gritty underworld of The White Suits. The movement dynamic and action scenes are expressed equally well. Part of the draw of The White Suits is its unabashed presentation of fun and thrilling action, and again Cypress’s art does not fail to deliver. The expression and mechanics of motion are clear and articulated and aid in giving the reader perspective and direction for any given scene.

Overall

The White Suits shows a great deal of promise in many areas. It is able to mostly accomplish the sense of fun action that it presents throughout its narrative. Furthermore, the noir atmosphere is conveyed well by the story’s art and narrative. The story’s premise and initial direction belied a lot of potential, but a somewhat clumsy handling of the narrative and pacing, particular towards the volume’s conclusion, hurts it a great deal. The characters of the story are interesting and relevant, though it is a little unfortunate that there are so few meaningful characters in the story.

The work as a whole ultimately has a few damaging shortcomings, but it is an undeniably fun read. The parts that are done well in The White Suits are done very well. There is a great deal to enjoy here for most people, and, despite shaky execution, the noir thriller narrative is an entertaining ride for most of the duration.

2.5 out of 5 stars

2.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. Best of 2014 Review Wrap-up: Jay | Another Castle - 12/17/2014

    […] THE WHITE SUITS VOLUME #1 Review: Violent Noir Action Thriller […]

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