PEEPLAND #1 Reviewed
Written by Gary Phillips, Christa Faust
Art by Andrea Camerini
Hard Case Crime
In the late 70’s, early 80’s Time Square was New York’s seedy underbelly laid bare; a bright, neon-lit sexual mecca that burned bright until developers blew in. As Disney-fied as Time Square is today, the fascination with that period –before the AIDS crisis erupted, before rampant capitalism transformed “the sleaziest block in America” into a tourist magnet–there continues to be a reemerging interest in exploring the past as more of the landmarks that gave New York its distinct grit continue to be lost to gentrification.
Peepland, one of the inaugural releases of the new Hard Case Crime comic line, takes place during that era, just before Christmas of 1986, right when everything in that neighborhood was on the verge of transforming. Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, two crime novelists well versed in all things pulp and lurid, along with the artwork of Andrea Camerini and colorist Marco Lesko, bring to life the peep booths and grime of 80s New York and make it pop from the page.
Issue one hits the reader with a shotgun blast of plot and character introductions. It’s just another night behind the streaky glass peep booth for Roxy, until a regular asks her to stash a very in demand VHS tape he made. Crosscut with a pawn store robbery and the untimely death of the videotape’s owner, Faust and Phillips move the story along at a whirlwind pace. Hopefully, subsequent issues give each storyline a little more room to breath and better establish the characters. There’s plenty of reason to anticipate the narrative possibilities this series could go, given the creative team involved. Faust, a New York native who came of age during this time period, also spent time working a Time Square peep booth, which adds a unique verisimilitude that few fictional stories of this time period have to offer. The first issue of this series definitely has me hooked and eagerly looking forward to the untapped potential I hope to see in issues to come.