I love the whole premise behind Hawaiian Dick, the ongoing 1950s private eye comics set in Hawaii. The noir feel of the storytelling and characters is dead-on. The ex-pat main character, Byrd, is well-drawn and has a lot of emotional baggage he’s carrying that only gets opened up in this first graphic novel.
Byrd of Paradise gathers the first three issues of the comics written by B. Clay Moore and drawn by Steven Griffin. The story immediately seized a lot of attention when it first came out because of the mixture of old and new.
Moore has a great grasp of the story, and noir must run in his veins. The set-up for the story and the execution hits all the cornerstones of the venue, and Byrd’s backstory comes as a natural progression of the case he’s on. Moore’s development of the story “reads” like a movie. He stays off the page and out of panels unless narration or dialogue is really needed. Action tells this story as well as anything, and readers often forget how much a good writer can do with a few panels of delineated action. Moore has a fantastic grasp of the concept.
As good as Moore’s story is, though, Griffin’s art emphasizes everything about it. Griffin’s use of color – bright and vibrant, then dark and moody – sets the tone for the scenes, the characters, and the atmosphere. Through color alone, Griffin could have brought home every emotion that he needed to in order to convey the story.
However, he doesn’t stop there. He gives us well imagined characters and body posture. Byrd just wouldn’t have been the cocky, worldly private eye without the five o’clock shadow and Hawaiian shirt. Mo wouldn’t have been the homicide cop without the immense stature, the clean-shaven appearance, and the immaculate black suit.
The artwork is loose and tight as needed. Sometimes panels only feature characters in action. Then there are times that the background is developed in depth. All of it looks painted, with lots of contrast and rounded shapes that flow naturally to the eye. After you read the graphic novel, don’t be surprised to find yourself leafing back through the pages just to see the artwork again.