In the final issue of AfterShock Comics’ Killer Groove, out this week, writer Ollie Masters brings his violent 1970’s drama to a climactic end. It has all been leading to this, a final confrontation between old lovers; between the music and the family; between good old fashioned right and wrong.
After five issues of exploring the underground culture of 1970’s Los Angeles, Masters focuses the finale on the central characters and the consequences of their actions or, in some cases, their in-actions.
The Killers Story
Like a spinning record, Masters has tightened his story issue after issue, the needle edging ever closer to the centre of the vinyl disc and the inevitable conclusion.
Previous issues of Killer Groove have contained intricate, complex story lines with multiple characters coming and going, weaving around each other like the separate tracks of a record. Surprisingly, this final issue is very focused. It centres on the relationship between Jonny and Jackie and the consequences of their actions over the last four issues. An inevitable confrontation is coming and Masters manipulates the reader’s reactions by exploring the emotional personalities within his characters.
At first Jonny was a tragic figure, desperate to do whatever it took just so that he could make it in the music business. The reader had some sympathy for him but as his story progressed he quickly became a man to despise. There was a brief moment of respite, where redemption became possible but ultimately his act of kindness was as selfish as all his other acts.
Jackie started in a dark place, cut off from those around her and this, in turn, affected her life style. She was in a slump. Her journey forced her to interact with people and take responsibility for her actions. This led to the formation of a family around her, a family that she has grown to love. Ultimately, when this family became threatened, she had to rise up and fight back.
This final issue of Killer Groove is where those two character arcs cross over and their futures are as entwined as their pasts. Masters brings each character arc to a satisfying conclusion and the art tells the emotional story beautifully.
Eoin Marron creates outstanding drama through his layouts and compositions. He uses thin inked lines for the characters but drowns the scenery in shadows producing an oppressive atmosphere for most of the comic. Characters like Lucy appear to have the weight of the world on their shoulders while Jonny is slipping ever further into the darkness of his own making.
There are also a number of metaphorical visuals. They form part of the storytelling but also indicate character decisions and emotions. Marron drops them into a page, usually in the final panel, causing the reader to pause and reflect. It is a technique that helps to control the pacing of the comic and slows the reader down, especially on pages which are text light.
Throughout the run of Killer Groove, Jordie Bellaire has provided the atmosphere via bold color choices. Each page is a visual representation of the characters moods, with dingy grey and browns creating a sense of hopelessness or cold blues indicating an emotionless killer.
Equally, the unique speech balloons provided by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou have been consistent, adding to the singular look of the comic. The subtle changes in the shape of the balloons or the angles of the tails add emphasis and, in some cases, emotion to the speech. The sound effects have a rough edged font which reflects the harshness of the actions they relate to. Every aspect of the comic has been designed around creating a single, overriding atmosphere for the development of the characters and plot.
A Killer Conclusion
Like any good Noir story, Killer Groove has a violent ending which is neither uplifting or too down beat. A moment in the lives of these characters has come to an end, satisfying enough for the reader but not everything is neatly tied up, which is the way it should be. Masters has created a complex web of a story, leading the reader and his two central characters to an inevitable, emotional, confrontation.
The writing is the match of a Dashiell Hammett story: a thriller fuelled by characterisation. The artwork looks like a 1970’s gangster movie but the layouts and composition are uniquely comics. Killer Groove is clearly inspired by some of the best thrillers from every medium and will in turn inspire future stories of this nature.
With Killer Groove, AfterShock Comics have a surefire hit on their hands.