Comics: Doctor Radar - Reviewed

We reviewed Doctor Radar

New from Titan Comics and part of their Statix Press label is the pulp noir graphic novel Doctor Radar, the frantic race around 1920 Paris to discover the identity of the evil and murderous villain only known as Doctor Radar. Originally published in French and now being translated into English by Ivanka Hahnenberger, this mad dash crime adventure may seem a bit more preposterous than the standard American noir tale, nonetheless it features absolutely stunning art and colors from Frederic Bezián.

Written by Noël Simsolo, Professor Ludwig Lang has just been murdered and his plans for an invention have been stolen. He is now the third person dead in what are the nefarious plans of the mysterious mastermind referred to as Doctor Radar. The police don’t quite seem up to the task, which leaves the gentleman detective and flying ace Ferdinand Straus to solve the case with the help of his Belgian artist friend Pascin. Trudging through the seedier sides of Paris, they try to unravel the mystery while the bodycount continues to grow. Even though there is a great deal of murder, sex, and drugs, either visually displayed or implied in the story, it still comes off as an unusual combination of Sherlock Holmes and something like Scooby Doo. It’s hard to take all of the running around and disguises all too serious, at least when comparing it to other pulp fiction or film noir. Even classic film noir that was hampered by the Hays Code restrictions was still far more rough around the edges than this sordid tale.

It’s Bezián’s mesmerizing art that ultimately makes this worth reading and washes away any issues that there may be with the storyline. His manic and overly expressive style is unlike anything that you have come to find from the major comic book publishers, and resembles something akin to Edvard Munch, Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, or similar artists from the post-impressionist movement. It’s a trip back in time and is something to behold and spend extra time perusing over every panel. His line work is active and expressive, and the characters have abnormal body shapes and facial features. Some of their faces are so abstract that they are either unrecognizable or resemble demons or skeletons, resulting in something that is both beautiful and slightly horrifying. The colors add another interesting element to each page, with many panels only containing one color aside from the black ink and pale white faces of the characters. When there are additional colors, it is often only to show lightning that is being cast onto the environment and its characters.

After reading Doctor Radar and examining the art contained within, it’s obvious that this is a French comic book and that’s a good thing. The story may come off as a slightly absurdist take on the noir genre, but the art is something to behold.