Gunning For Hits #3 // Review
1980s record company A&R guy Martin Mills is in over his head. He’s working with a hot new band that ’s about to make it big. He’s also managed to negotiate a deal with his personal pop music idol. There’s a cash flow problem and a bodyguard has come to recognize him as a former hitman. So things are going to get complicated as Jeff Rougvie’s Gunning For Hits drops its third issue. With all the pieces in place, Mills delivers a story of increasing complexity accompanied by an equally entertaining “Back Matter” essay on life in the music industry. Art is brought to the page by Moritat. Casey Silver handles the colors.
As the issue opens, fading Bowie-esque pop music icon Brian Slade is meeting with his manager. She’s there to introduce a dose of reality to someone who is lost somewhere else. It’s 6 a.m. on May 17th, 1987. Things are only going to get more complicated as the day progresses. Martin Mills has a meeting with Slade later-on in the day, but before he can make it in, he’s accosted by Slade’s bodyguard--an old accomplice of Mills’ from his days as a hitman. The bodyguard wants Mills to get him the type of work he’d done in the past and he’s not afraid to use any leverage he can to drag him back into a life he thought he’d put behind him.
Rougvie chooses the inauspicious date of May 18th, 1987 as a rather important day in the lives of hitman/record guy Martin Mills. The dawn-to-late-night format of the issue serves it well as the narrative passes from Slade to Mills to Mills’ bodyguard and back. It glides gracefully through the first 18 pages of the issue. The rest is given to Rougvie’s fascinating text-based prose as he writes about the truth behind the glamor of the music industry. It goes without saying that “the truth behind the glamor of the music industry,” is tremendously cliche. Rougvie manages to dissect the artistic and business life of a rockstar with perspicaciously concise text. He does so without having to use annoying words like “perspicacious.” It’s a very approachable narrative style. The text feels like something he might mention over a couple of beers at a bar somewhere. You don’t have to buy him a beer, though. Just buy his comic.
There’s absolutely NO violent physical action in this issue. None at all. The fact that this comes across as being visually dynamic at all in spite of this is due in large part to the efforts of artist Moritat. Subtle changes in facial expression deliver a very moody emotional drama. Faithfully-rendered New York architecture in the background give the setting of the comic book a solid physical backbone. The gradual changes in light over the course of May 18th, 1987 of beautifully brought to the page by Casey Silver, who also manages a few beautiful moments of drama. The depth that Silver’s colors lend to the face of Slade at the end of the issue’s first scene close the scene on a particularly sinister note. Elsewhere the swirling smoke of Martin’s cigarette curls into the lush green in the background of Central Park South at 2 pm. At issue’s end, Slade’s playing with the new act and there’s a rich, radioactive orangish red in the background. It’s a very dynamic palette that Silver’s playing with. That palette is being brought to the page with a sharp sense of discipline.
Once again, Rougvie, Mills and Silver put together a very novel and unique style of story to the comics page. In these first three issues, Rougvie and company have painstakingly drawn a very distinctive narrative onto the page. There might be a bit of a jarring cut between the story and the “Back Matter” at issue’s end and there might not be a clear sense of where things might be at the beginning of the next issue, but this third issue of Gunning For Hits feels nearly flawless nonetheless.