“Newburn” Vol. 1 is Perfect Graphic Noir That Grabs You And Won’t Let Go

by Corrina Lawson

In Newburn Vol. 1, a man is murdered after stealing from his own mafia family, but they aren’t the ones who ordered the hit

Newburn and author Chip Zdarsky

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Perfect Graphic Noir

Crime noir is a genre perfectly suited to graphic storytelling. Much like classic film noir, the art creates the mood of desperation that surrounds the characters and depicts the dark world that they’re trapped in.

Newburn Volume #1 is a great example of this. The premise is high-concept but simple: Easton Newburn is a private detective without loyalties, investigating conflicts between rival crime factions.

Essentially, this means the various mob factions trust Newburn to tell them the truth about the crimes he’s investigating. But since they’re also paranoid mobsters, it also means Newburn is constantly walking the line between the truth and his survival. It makes for desperate choices, for him, and for those who’ve committed the crimes he’s investigating.

Initially, Newburn seems to be stone cold but the reader soon discovers that he has a code of honor, as he takes on an assistant, Emily, because he sees potential in her, and because, to some extent, she needs protection. Without Emily, Newburn would be a cipher. But as the story unfolds, Emily becomes more fully rounded, with her own loyalties and code, essentially becoming a co-lead with the title character.

Newburn is just my kind of fictional detective: weathered, cynical, repressed, and yet still with a soul. Emily is more than a little like him, though not quite as repressed, and seeing her develop her skills and confront her past is incredibly satisfying. I grew attached to Emily and her boss and, because it is crime noir, I worried every moment for their safety.

The Graphic Art by Jacob Phillips

Graphic storytelling depends intensely on the art and Phillips excels in creating scenes of character, grim crime sequences, shoot-outs, and especially the tension before everything erupts.

Newburn is introduced in a long shot of a shirtless man exercising in a luxury penthouse. The panels zoom in, showcasing his craggy face and his scars, and zooms back out as he becomes a small figure in his glass house. He’s rich, he’s formidable, and he’s alone.

Emily’ is introduced shortly after, seemingly innocent and supporting an older woman being questioned by Newburn. He’s after the murderer of a mob scion and Emily instantly recognizes he’s dangerous. She seems trustworthy and sympathetic to the reader. But Newburn sees through her facade. He gives her his card, an outstretched hand of help that she doesn’t realize she needs as yet.

I love the way different colors are used to background certain sequences. Newburn enters a mob den that’s bathed in bright red. Green is used in a prison room sequence. Different shades of gray and brown are the foremost colors as Newburn reveals he knows Emily’s secret. I love that the panel surrounding his face is pure white when he offers Emily a job as his assistant. There’s also a scene on a dock, in the rain, all in dark shadows as it all seems to have fallen apart.

Immerse Yourself In The Series

Newburn is a continuing series from Image Comics, so you can buy the individual issues after Volume 1. I can’t wait for Volumes 15 and 16, coming in February and May 2024, respectively. As for me, I’m impatient to see what happens and will immerse myself in the individual issues 1 through 14 before then.

~ Corrina Lawson

About Chip Zdarsky

Newburn author Chip Zdarsky

Steve Murray (born December 21, 1975), known by the pen-name Chip Zdarsky (/zəˈdɑːrski/), is a Canadian comic book artist and writer, journalist, illustrator and designer. He has also used the pseudonym Todd Diamond. He worked for National Post for over a decade, until 2014, as an illustrator and humorist (as Steve Murray) and wrote and illustrated a column called “Extremely Bad Advice” for the paper as well as The Ampersand, the newspaper’s pop culture section’s online edition.

He uses the Zdarsky pseudonym for comics-related work, using it to create Prison Funnies and Monster Cops and as artist and co-creator of Sex Criminals with writer Matt Fraction. Comics attributed to him include Howard the Duck, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Daredevil, Spider-Man: Life Story and Spider-Man: Spider’s Shadow for Marvel Comics, Batman for DC Comics and Jughead for Archie Comics. Source: Wikipedia

You can find and follow Chip Zdarsky at his website, on Instagram, on It’s Chip Zdarsky’s Newsletter, Okay? on Substack, and on X (formerly Twitter)

Buy The Entire Newburn Series 1-16 (through May 2024) on Amazon

Other LitStack Resources

Be sure and check out other LitStack Reviews by Corrina Lawson on the site.

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