Gunning For Hits #2 // Review
Things seem to be coming together for music industry A&R guy Martin. It’s 1987 and he’s just signed Stunted Growth--a band guaranteed to be the next big thing. He’s also working on pulling things together for a contract that could revive the career of a fading rock legend. If Martin can avoid danger from the past and a higher-up at the company who is eagerly awaiting his failure, then success might be just around the corner in the second issue of Jeff Rougvie’s Gunning For Hits. Moritat brings Martin’s world to visual life with the aid of colorist/designer Casey Silver.
Fresh from signing Stunted Growth, Martin saunters into his office to find a guy named Melch waiting for him. Melch is Martin’s personal accountant. As it turns out, Melch met a guy working for the management of Brian Slade--a David Bowie-like legend who Martin would love to work with. (Bowie cues continue in the second issue. The cover is a stylish homage to the album cover for his 1976 album Station to Station.) A deal is made. Slade is slated to show-up at Stunted Growth’s next concert to ostensibly meet with Martin. Things get a bit complicated when a man from Martin’s violent past pops-up as Slade’s imposing giant of a bodyguard.
Rougvie’s gift for sharp dialogue carries over a clever comedically dramatic momentum from the first issue. The intro to the series was an issue-length contract negotiation. Rougvie’s shows that he can manage the flow of a multi-part chapter with a follow-up that splits the action into three major parts: an extended conversation between Martin and Melch, a conversation between Martin and his superior and the Stunted Growth concert that serves as the climax of the issue. It’s a thoughtfully composed episode.
In addition to being stylish, Moritat’s art has an astute layout. The first three pages have the action within an iconic Manhattan office tower bordered on the left side by a rendering of the tower itself. There’s the Flatiron Building on the left and there’s someone having a conversation with Melch’s receptionist directly to the left of it. There’s the World Trade Center to the left and there’s Martin sleeping in his car in a subterranean parking structure to the right. Elsewhere drama cuts across the panels in a number of different ways that keep the story from feeling too much like the dull business of a guy in a suit and tie as the 1980s die. Casey Silver does some really interesting work with the color. It’s a tricky thing to try to come up with a color scheme that puts Martin at the center of his own story. He’s a predominantly grey-looking guy in a predominantly grey-looking world. Make it to the concert at the end of the issue and everything’s gone crimson. There’s life in the music, but there’s also a danger there. The vividness of all that red casts a light on the lifeblood of the series.
The issue wraps-up with Rougvie speaking directly to the reader in a long bit of text that provides some background on the thought that’s gone into the series. Rougvie’s work with the creative team on coming up with a way to dynamically show the power of music on a comics page makes for reading that’s every bit as interesting as what’s going on in the actual narrative. That final bit of text at the end of the issue, the Spotify playlist that goes along with the issue and so much more continue to make Gunning for Hits a refreshingly deep multi-track series.