52 pages as of writing
The world of the European Industrial Age was one filled with the four “P’s”: progress, politics, peacelessness, and prostitutes. Perhaps the kids that slept through history class don’t know what that means, but it’s okay; I can just point to Jack Kayless’ Chimneyspeak and say “Pretty much that”.
Chimneyspeak revolves around the Working Girls’ Union, a prostitution circuit that’s half-guild and half-mob. Y’know, the kind of business that has rules to follow and a strong system of leadership, but isn’t above carving a few pounds off of someone that’s interfering with their work. The Union is run by Alice McKenzie, but she’s not the star of the show. No, that particular honor is in a tossup between Elgie, the two-foot murdering machine under the employ of the Union, and Chelsea Grinn, a psychopathic murderer with a heart of pure ice. Both of them seem to be uncannily good at their jobs, I might add; Grinn in particular has performed feats of mass murder that would rival a major war.
It’s very easy to make jokes about prostitutes. It’s not very classy or tactful, no, but it’s not difficult either. However, I’m glad that Mr. Kayless doesn’t stoop to them, the story has quite a bit of gravity that’s broken up with comic relief. It revolves around the life and times of the guild in the period, not just sex; it’s more about politics than gunplay. Not to say that there’s not plenty of both, gods no. Want to see a man get torn in half? We can do that.
This takes up the first half of the story, until Chelsea Grinn gets introduced. Then subtlety gets thrown out of the window somewhat. I won’t spoil the plot too much, but let’s say that Grinn is after someone specific and has no problem killing anyone that gets in her way, talks to her, looks at her, runs the shop that she wants to buy from, or has the grave misfortune of being in the general area of something she wants. And when I said that she’s good at killing, I wasn’t kidding. It’s like she has access to the Matrix root files.
So, the political intrigue gets sidelined a bit for terrible harm inflicted against everyone. It happens. Overall, however, I was very pleased with the story. While Grinn’s scenes seem to be a bit over-the-top, and the rest of the violence is occasionally off, most of the comic is done in a way that doesn’t pull any punches but isn’t just getting off on the violence. Is there sex, blood, and foul language? Yes, but it’s usually appropriate for the story, because that’s what we expect from that society.
It strikes me how puritanical the above sounds, so let me explain. It is possible to build a story based solely around violence and sex, and it can turn out pretty well. I would use a comic example but I don’t have any on hand since I tend to hate them, so look at Bulletstorm or any of your stereotypical “action flicks”. There’s no gravity there, it’s just violence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if it’s done right, none at all. But too many writers try to use those tropes to cover up for their poor writing abilities. Compare those flicks to Chimneyspeak, which uses violence because it’s important to the story, not because it’s compensating for anything.
Oh, and I should mention that the female characters strip down on occasion, and the violence isn’t something that you would show to a five-year old. Not that it would matter, the little sociopaths, but I’m getting off track. Just bear in mind that this comic is not safe for work.
In all, I enjoyed Chimneyspeak. It’s a solid story in a good setting, with just a few shots of ridiculousness when you get toward present day. A gold star is firmly attached to this one, and you should check it out.