Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

by on May.17, 2013, under Comics

Matt Kindt is working out how to tell a certain kind of big story using a lot of little stories. It’s a method you usually see on TV, like how Buffy would always have an overarching Big Bad but also each episode have to deal with the Monster of the Week. He began to do it with 3 Story, three perspectives on a constantly growing giant, one from his mother, one from his wife, and one from his daughter. He’s doing it in an ongoing way with MIND MGMT, where the overall quest involving the world-spanning secret spy organization makes room each issue for a look at the special talents of one of its current or former agents. Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes is probably the most complete expression of it so far.

Each piece of Red Handed tells the story of a different quirky criminal. There’s a woman who steals chairs and caps her career by stealing an electric chair. There’s a woman who steals signs to write her multi-warehouse-sized novel about an ant trying to communicate with humans by arranging letters the size of its own body. There’s the aging pickpocket who can’t remember which wallet contains his actual ID because he’s losing his memory and with it losing track of his actual identity. All these perfect little psychological portraits of outlandish criminals, all solved by the city of Red Wheelbarrow’s genius Detective Gould.

Separating these stories are pieces of Gould’s own life and an ongoing dialogue, word balloons against a black background, between Gould and a criminal he’s caught, all about the nature of art, morality, and justice. That dialogue lets us know that someone has manipulated all these criminals into doing something in concert, in ways Detective Gould can’t understand and for reasons he can’t fathom, even though he can solve any crime, understand any motive.

This is the piece of work that cements Kindt’s transition from journeyman to master. I look at what I wrote about his previous books and I see I wasn’t completely taken with them, but this one is my favorite book of 2013 so far, and it’s not even close. It’s high-level stuff, dealing with major themes and intricately assembled, using genre tropes in an entirely new way. It’s going to get a ton of praise from everyone who writes about comics or thinks about them, and it’s going to deserve it.

Preview here.

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