Best Shots Review: NORMANDY GOLD

Normandy Gold
Credit: Rodney Ramos/Steve Scott/Lovern Kindzierski (Titan Comics)
Credit: Fay Dalton (Titan Comics)

Normandy Gold TPB
Written by Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin
Art by Steve Scott, Rodney Ramos and Lovern Kindzierski
Lettering by Comicraft
Published by Titan Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Credit: Rodney Ramos/Steve Scott/Lovern Kindzierski (Titan Comics)

Take the seedy streets of ‘70s noir, a tough-as-nails female protagonist, and liberal doses of sex, violence and political intrigue, and you might say you’ve struck gold - Normandy Gold, that is. Writers Megan Abbot and Alison Gaylin and artist Steve Scott pull no punches with their visceral journey of one woman’s investigation down the darkest corridors of 1970s Washington - while their story occasionally crosses the line from hard-hitting and provocative to sometimes feeling lurid and borderline gratuitous, the intensity of the book’s title character brings this series across the finish line.

Sheriff Normandy Gold is a lady with a past - a father who died in World War II, a broken mother who failed her at every turn, and a streetwalking sister who has been murdered by parties unknown. But Abbot and Gaylin flip the script on the familiar noir tropes by taking a page out of the Greg Rucka playbook, as Normandy herself feels three-dimensional and powerful, a woman who has no problem taking care of business, whether that’s hunting down a moose or drawing a knife on a city cop who is a little loose with his lips. Abbot and Gaylin’s narration for Normandy is the clear highlight of the book, as we learn about the heartbreak in her family’s past: “She named me Normandy because there’s no such thing as victory.”

Credit: Rodney Ramos/Steve Scott/Lovern Kindzierski (Titan Comics)

That said, Normandy Gold isn’t for the squeamish - like the ‘70s films that helped inspire the story, Abbot and Gaylin push the envelope as far as they can with the tone of their content, particularly as Normandy winds up infiltrating the prostitution ring where her late sister worked. Some of this can be attributed to the tone of the times - and so there’s something potent about watching a female protagonist own her sexuality and connect the dots of this detective story, as we watch her bide her time to strike against some very powerful men. (In particular, there’s one scene that pops out in its level of violence, if only because it’s so unexpected.) But that said, there are other scenes that can feel a little tougher to swallow, particularly when Abott and Gaylin lean into the more X-rated elements of their script, which at times seem to amplify rather than subvert some of the worser instincts of exploitation films.

Credit: Rodney Ramos/Steve Scott/Lovern Kindzierski (Titan Comics)

That artwork, meanwhile, proves to be one of Normandy Gold’s biggest strengths. Scott has a photorealistic style that fits the book nicely along its cinematic inspirations - in some instances, it’s almost reminiscent of Paul Gulacy, particularly the more dramatic compositions, like seeing Normandy’s eyes pop across inky shadows. Granted, sometimes the photo referencing can feel a little too blatant - two characters pop up that are dead ringers for Robert Redford and Sam Elliot - but Scott sells the setting and tone nicely, reminding readers that they’re in the past rather than the here and now. That said, like the main story itself, sometimes Scott’s work can get a little too preoccupied with the prurient content of the storyline - seeing a stray breast may feel in keeping with ‘70s exploitation films, but with a female lead, it feels like a missed opportunity to turn some of these more dated tropes on their ear.

While Normandy Gold does seem to jump the shark a bit near its conclusion with a sudden injection of political conspiracy tropes, Abbot, Gaylin and Scott keep much of their story nice and grounded thanks to the voice and presence of their central protagonist. Normandy is a character whose scars clearly have shaped and defined her, but have never brought her down - and that is ultimately the most important thing this gender-flipped noir story can accomplish, along with the truly unsettling feeling that this series’ setting holds for readers. It may be rough around the edges at places, but Normandy Gold has its fair share of sparkle, if you’re willing to dig through the dirt.

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