Review: Old City Blues

Combine Blade Runner with I, Robot and you get this post-apocalyptic sci-fi cop story, which is entertaining as all hell.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Old City Blues

Old City Blues is a four issue series from writer/artist Giannis Milonogiannis that takes a noir cop style and applies it to the world of science fiction. Robots, guns, Special Forces units, post-apocalyptic cities that have been industrialized to the point the people are choking on their own technologies, it’s all present and accounted for in a tale that brings together elements of Blade Runner and I, Robot. While not wholly the most original idea in science fiction, Milonogiannis uses solid storytelling and top notch art to ensure that Old City Blues is entertaining as all hell.

In the year 2048, four decades after a devastating flood that wiped out most of Europe, the only thing left is a mega city named “Greece”. Built by the world’s largest corporations, most of the city is a hive for both normal and cybernetically augmented humans.  One of these cyborgs, who is also the founder of the multi-national conglomerate Hayashi, has been murdered. Trying to battle lies, deceit and corporate espionage is Detective Solano, a naïve and idealistic cop working under a cynical chief named Gortyn. As Solano battles to find out the truth, he’s aided by Thermidor, a forward thinking and hot headed woman who operates the Mobile Gun Units, which are giant and heavily armed robot fighting machines.

Milonogiannis proves easily here that it’s not the story but the storyteller. As Old City Blues is an amalgam of other sci-fi storytelling staples, Milonogiannis adds enough of his own spice to keep it from being formulaic. In most of these stories, there’s a rogue cop or adventurer that’s hard-boiled and cynical but only to cover the true idealist that has been disappointed by humanity over and over. In Old City Blues, that character is split into Detective Solano and Thermidor. Solano is the pure idealist, the one who can’t believe the powers that be are okay with the Hayashi Corporation trying to squash an investigation of their founder’s murder. He doesn’t understand the politics but doesn’t fight them; instead he tries to change them through proper channels until finally pushed too far.

Thermidor is cynical and jaded. She’s been involved with this police force for so long that nothing surprises her and, just below the surface, she seems to detest the cyborg community she’s in charge of protecting. Milonogiannis gets a lot of mileage out of splitting one stereotype into two characters, especially having the tougher cop a female. I also enjoyed how the Chief Of Police wasn’t the standard blow-hard jerk that wanted everybody to roll over. He’s more dejected here, a product of having attempted to fight the system and been beaten down over and over. These and other small plot twists allow Old City Blues to become more than the sum of its parts.

Where Milonogiannis really shines is the artwork. Old City Blues is a black and white tour de force of pencils, inks and shading. The style is reminiscent of old newspaper strips like Dick Tracy, Frank Miller’s art in Ronin and classic manga books. Again Milonogiannis takes parts of other things and make them his own. I’m always impressed when people use basic black and white to tell a story, especially here with Milonogiannis’s ability create motion. The lion’s share of Old City Blues is car chases, air battles and fights. Without a great feeling of action the entire book would fall apart. Instead it’s rapid fire and exciting. Old City Blues would make a great addition to any sci-fi lovers collection but what I really hope is that Milonogiannis will be brought into the comic book fold as a top penciler. I’d love to see what he does with a more seasoned writer.