By Arpad Okay. Loose Ends is bipolar, either hyper-stylized or deadpan crushing. Its heroes are bad men who take a beating over and over, physically and emotionally, and somehow survive. They aren’t losers. They just have nothing but the worst luck. Wrong place, wrong time, crap partners, sticking to their guns and dying on the hill.
Beneath the whippy lines and cartoonish, drug-addled good times is something serious. Loose Ends is in love with darkness. Call it Coen brothers with a level of redneck more real than they are capable of delivering. Something Gummo. Everyone has a wrecked life. Everyone is all closet skeletons held together by cigarette tar. They are painfully authentic and my heart breaks for them. These folks with their flaws, they are complete. Not realer than real. Just true.
A crime yarn a continent away from Hollywood, unafraid to ruin lives. We find ourselves sunk into the sherbet swirls of dusk, dashboard dials, and lights, roads paved with misery, wanting to ride them. All of it falling apart like a Jim Thompson novel locked in a modern groove. Bacon and lap-dances. Dead kids. Dead everybody.
Loose Ends stands alone because it is not another re-hash. It is its own glorious entity. I’m here calling out to the masters of crime stories because it is the strongest work in the genre in a long time. Loose Ends isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is and while that closed circuit can be a little hard to casually break into, make no mistake — the power is on.
A comics comic. Perspective becomes panels. People speak in icons and rebus. A film with this many cuts wouldn’t fly, yet Loose Ends is intoxicating. The action paired with storytelling frequently devoid of both dialog and plot is a hard find onscreen or in prose. Too many conflicting tones, different feels, to be attempted outside of sequential art. Visuals no one but a reader can steer through. The drug binge melts straight into the mystery’s reveal. All is chaos. Everything is planned. The utterly unexpected turns out to be totally premeditated.
It’s nuts. It’s genius. It’s both.
The changing colors and art style hold as much sway over the story’s telling as the mad mix of plot. Its modern hustles and flashback revelations come painted in ways that alternately annihilate and define the mood. The juicy candy twilight palette of its drug runs vibe like a music video more than a parade of murders. The liver cirrhosis monochrome of its memories feel like faded newspaper pulp but read like The Wire.
The story punches through these purposeful contradictions of flavor and hits the reader square in the gut. I feel for the players’ pasts in Loose Ends, and I love the neon city look of their present. The result: I can’t get enough of either. Give me twice the page count of silent drives. More moments of toes touching. These lives of broken boys make me feel so sweet and like such shit at the same time. It must be magic.
The secret structure makes the story-in-four-parts fall into place with the measured effectiveness of a hammer building a gallows. Still, I’d love a Director’s Cut. Not to give the story more body. It’s brilliant. To stretch out those moments of magic atmosphere. To lengthen the shadows cast by this dark world. However, what I wouldn’t touch is the ending. Since finishing Loose Ends, I’ve found myself haunted by its conclusion, my mind circling around it for days after the book closed. The story isn’t over. But to tell more would be a sin.
Written by Jason Latour.
Art by Chris Brunner.
Colors by Rico Renzi.
Letters by Chris Brunner.