"Wire Hangers" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Originally Published as Wire Hangers #1 - #4
Written and Illustrated by Alan Robert
2010, 124 Pages
Trade Paperback released on November 30th, 2010
If I've learned anything from shows like The Shield (not the new one with super heroes and Clark Gregg!) and The Wire, it's that corrupt cops make for some interesting stories. Obviously, not all police officers are on the take, but the ones that are end up getting into some crazy shit. Creator Alan Robert provides a look into the underbelly of New York City in his debut series Wire Hangers, but the corrupt cops are somehow the least interesting part of the comic. The show is stolen by a strange man lurking through the streets with wire hangers literally sticking out of his skin all over his body. Who is this man and what is his connection to the string of mysterious abductions have plagued the city as of late?
Wire Hangers starts out with what looks like an obvious premise. This weirdo is out killing people because he's got a screw loose and the cops are trying to track him down. No one has ever gotten a clean shot at him and they don't have much to go on in terms of evidence. To make matters worse, the officer assigned to the case has been in hot water recently after being linked to a big-time gang boss. He needs a break and he needs it bad.
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If this was a simple story, it would have ended there. Fortunately, Robert doesn't stick with your run-of-the-mill plotlines. Instead, he flips the tale around. As you go through the trade paperback, your initial assumptions are thrown out the window for something entirely different that you didn't see coming. After writing that last sentence, I realize how incredibly cryptic that sounds, however I don't want to spoil anything about the story as there are some great twists and turns contained within these pages. It's best to go in as fresh as possible.
Suffice to say, the angle that Wire Hangers ends up taking is an interesting one. The only downside is that this four-issue mini-series is not enough to hold it. There are some great ideas put forth that aren't given the room to grow. As a result, I was left with more questions than answers when I put the book down. I would love to see what Robert could have done if he had another two issues to tell his story. The backstory of Cypra, the aforementioned wire-hanger-covered hobo, is begging to be filled in. How did he get to this place and where is he going next?
Robert not only wrote Wire Hangers, he illustrated it too. This was his first comic, which was followed by Crawl to Me and Killogy, both of which, I read before this one. In looking at the three of them, you can see how he has grown as an artist and really defined his own style. There are some shots that look a little off, with the characters looking a little too round or cartoony, which doesn't translate into the feel of the story. Then there's Cypra, who is one of the creepiest creatures I've ever seen in comics. The very idea of him is uncomfortable to think of. Can you just imagine for a second looking into a mirror to see that your face has about a dozen wire hangers jutting out of it in all angles? Now imagine that same thing happening all over your body. How does he even sit down? I get a shiver just thinking about it. Robert's design for him is violent, dark, and gritty. He's the kind of person that would be able to go toe-to-toe with the worst criminals and cops in the area.
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This is a comic that really has its own unique look. The version of New York City seen in this book is a dark one. Instead of starting with a white page and filling things in, it looks as if Robert began drawing on a black one, carving out the slivers of light that would become his characters. Color plays a huge part throughout the comic. It manages to set the tone of each page like a paper mood ring. Violent scenes are shaded in red. A memory of Cypra's father is colored in a bluish green.
Wire Hangers is a noble first effort for Alan Robert, but it feels like it’s missing a few pieces. It's currently being developed into a feature film, so I'm hoping that the big screen will provide enough room to tell Cypra's full story. I guess it's a good problem when my biggest issue with a comic is that I wanted more from it. Judging from his later work, Robert has only gotten better with future books.