Legendary cartoonist Jules Feiffer began a graphic novel trilogy in 2014 with the bestselling Kill My Mother. Now the second installment Cousin Joseph, has arrived with a haymaker.
Set in 1931 Hollywood, good cop Sam Hannigan is a detective on the Red Squad, tasked with smashing the union at a local cannery and keeping communists at bay. Sam also takes jobs for free from a mysterious Cousin Joseph, who calls him with assignments to visit to several unpatriotic movie producers. Sam gives them a message from Cousin Joseph, a music box filled with cash, and then, if needed, to forcefully suggest that their scripts all have a happy American/patriotic ending. Sam has no illusions about the hardbitten world of Hollywood in which he lives, and even his low expectations in people are rarely met.
But as all classic hardboiled detective novels go, things are not what they seem. A murder, an unhappy ex-partner, strikebreakers, and a couple of “dames” are just a few of complications Sam gets caught up in. Eventually, Sam’s best intentions will wind up getting the better of him (and punched in the face a few times).
The artwork in Cousin Joseph is filled with constant frantic motion, colored in the classic film noir lighting style, awash of grays, greens, and faded browns. Feiffer has constructed a terrific visual story that feels like it comes directly from the pages of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. Feiffer’s no-nonsense, razor sharp, cynical writing is fantastic to read, right down to the 1930s lexicon (“I had my .38 out. I was ready to plug you, so I could go back to work on her”).This graphic novel is more for adults than teens, who will appreciate the period references, and one of the best graphic novels published yet — a wonderful appetizer to the final installment, Archie Goldman and the Decline of the West, next year.