Raising Cain (James M. Cain, That Is) : Jordi Bernet : “The Nature of the Beast”

ABOVE: Bernet at work

It’s unfortunate that Jordi Bernet’s fame in the United States comes from his work for the Jonah Hex comic; no particular slander on that venerable Western series, but it obscures Bernet’s major contributions to the European graphic form- which are in the form of, shall we say, comic erotica. In classic series like “Bang Bang” and “Clara by Night,” (about a hooker whose heart is exactly composed of the element you would imagine) Bernet  deploys an astounding range of inventive, expressive tricks in the service of crude sex gags; he is like a salacious Will Eisner.

ABOVE: Clara By Night

1989’s “The Nature of the Beast”, from Bernet and Enrique Sanchez Abuli, tells a straight-ahead crime story, deliberately reminiscent of the twisty works of noir hero James M. Cain, to whom the graphic novel is dedicated. There is plenty of “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” in the tale of a bomb-shell who seduces an ex-boxer under the watchful gaze of her rich, older Southern gentleman of a husband… and there’s also echoes of William Faulkner in the character of Toby, an innocent who is one confusing time-slip away from turning into Benjy from “The Sound and the Fury.”

As always, Bernet is the star, not Abuli, (his writing collaborator in the classic “Torpedo” gangster saga, which was reissued by IDW Comics not too long ago.) Abuli  re-heats James M. Cain’s left-overs, but one never feels cheated because Bernet’s drawings are so very good. They do what the word suggests: they DRAW us into a convincing reality. One forgives familiarity from a good drawing, specially a good drawing of a beautiful woman. Bernet draws classically, like a man who’s studied the funny pages and Steve Canyon and Modesty Blaise – but he goes to all the places Steve Canyon and Modesty Blaise didn’t dare go, places that most of his American counterparts STILL don’t dare go in 2014.

ABOVE: Hatchet job

RATING: COOL!

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