REVIEW: Potter’s Field (hardcover)
Release Date: 13 May 2009
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paul Azaceta
Covers: J.G. Jones
Colours: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire (Chapters 1-3); Marshall Dillon (Chapter 4)
Cover Design: Dafna Pleban
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Introduction: Greg Rucka
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
There’s a place outside of New York City where the unnamed dead are buried. It’s a part of Hart Island filled to the teeth with graves that only bear numbers as markers. Welcome to Potter’s Field. One man (known only as John Doe) has made it his job to go through the field and not only find out who killed the John and Jane Does, but to give them back their names. By using a network of operatives scattered throughout the city, John out-thinks and out-maneuvers the scum in order to chisel the names of the dead onto their headstones.
I read this series while in the middle of a serious rainstorm, and that certainly helped create a mood for the two stories contained in these pages. They’re dark and pulpy, without feeling sensational in that gross way that pulp fiction can. I’m not really big into the detective genre, but this one had me turning the pages as quickly as I could (it was really hard for me not to just skip to the end to see how it all turned out).
The first three “chapters” are all the same story, and the fourth is a one-shot. If you read the intro, and are still confused about whether or not you “blinked” and missed everything, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger there. I’ve read it twice and I’m still not sure if I missed what I was supposed to pick up on. Was it the game of figuring out whodunit, or did John Doe’s real identity get revealed somewhere in those 114 pages? Not sure, but even if you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed (like me), I think you’ll still find Potter’s Field to be a damn entertaining, fast read.
There are a few references to things people my age or younger might not get. I’m not sure how many people out there will know who Miss Marple is (I was excited that all my late night PBS viewing came in handy finally), but there aren’t many and they don’t detract from the overall story. Plus, the dialogue is so quick and sharp, you don’t really have time to sit there and head scratch over a few detective references.
The art is outstanding. Azaceta’s work here feels both like it’s in the present and very much like it’s straight out of the 50s. It has this claustrophobic sense to it; with the darkness or the buildings closing in on you. It never feels like it’s daytime in this version of New York. That plus this seedy quality to the city here reminds me of the unnamed city in Seven. I’ve never been to NYC, so this might be why it looked like any other anonymous big city to me. It certainly didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book; again, it all helped create the mood of the story being told.
My only problem with Potter’s Field was that it was really short. After finishing the one-shot, I was bummed out that that was it. I wanted more story! In the intro, Rucka says this is only the start of the story. It’s going to be one hell of a wait to get the rest.