Graphic Novel Review: Noche Roja

(Titan �17.99)

THE latest in a new line of gritty graphic novels under the Vertigo Crime imprint, this is a bleak and unforgiving look at the corrupt communities on the tip of the Mexican border, where young women are forced into working in harsh maquiladoras (export assembly plants) for meagre wages and under oppressive conditions.

Ex-cop and former private eye Jack Cohen vowed never to return to Mexico again after a terrible tragedy years before, but he finds himself lured back over the border by a beautiful aid worker who demands his help in finding a missing girl.

Together they uncover a conspiracy which permeates throughout society, with the corrupt authorities refusing to investigate the growing spate of deaths, and figures at the highest echelons of power will stop at nothing to protect their dark secrets...

Exploring a dangerous and depressing side to our consumer greed, Noche Roja (which translates as red night) is both a classic noir mystery and a social commentary on the forgotten underdogs in modern society, beautifully captured in stark tones of black and white by artist Jason Latour.

Previous work by writer Simon Oliver has included The Exterminators and Hellblazer spin-off Chas: The Knowledge, both of which featured moments of very black humour. But Noche Roja is far more relentless, offering precious few chinks of light amidst the shadows, and as a result of which can be hard-going at times.

That said, if you’re looking for first rate crime drama then this book knocks spots off much of the mainstream fiction on the shelves, and proves once again that the graphic novel medium is one of the most flexible and innovative forms of literature available.