Written by Andersen Gabrych
Illustrated by Brad Rader
Lettered by Sean Konot
Published by DC/Vertigo
Another Vertigo crime thriller, and another faux-noir protagonist being carried along by a series of credulity-stretching plot twists. In Fogtown, Frank Grissel is, his closeted homosexuality aside, yet another in a long line of Chandler-lite detectives. Grissel’s hired to find a missing daughter, but as is the way in these stories, he’s set up to be a patsy and refuses to be anybody’s patsy. You’ve seen it before.
Gabrych tries to add a few new wrinkles to the formula, with a lead detective struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality while being confronted by transsexual sex trade, but he’s unable to overcome the clichés riddling his narrative. Double crosses occur with such rapidity that readers may not even notice that a few of them don’t make much sense, as the connections between rival crime figures, a zealous and violent priest, Grissle, a former boxer turned bodyguard, the missing girl, and the psychiatrist with a soft spot for aiding prostitutes become muddled to the point of being meaningless. And the twist involving Grissle’s lost family member just adds more incredulity to the plot rather than any emotional relevance.
Solid and stocky, Brad Rader’s characters fit the milieu of Fogtown’s 1950s noir perfectly. The character acting is stiff, but the layouts are effective, the character designs and backgrounds strong.
Unfortunately, Rader’s art can’t overcome Gabrych’s pedestrian script. Fogtown puts forth some challenging issues of gender and sexuality, but a potentially engaging and interesting story winds up lost in a cacophony of overwrought noir posturings.