Tony Harris. Tony Harris could draw a pile of sawdust and make it look captivating. Luckily, he's got a bit more than sawdust to play with in CHIN MUSIC, and his mastery of Prohibition-era aesthetic is absolutely a treat.
The panel layouts alone are worthy of this entire section of a review. They're bold, they're all focused on driving the reader's eye to just the right place, and they're wildly varied. Each page is visually engaging, and each panel demands closer inspection. CHIN MUSIC is sequential art doing the 'sequential' thing in a clever and astonishingly good way.
Within those artfully-designed panels is a lush and beautiful world, populated with characters that feel deep and weathered and storied. It's heavily stylized, in the best way possible -- I'm struggling to find better modern examples of deco style, especially in the comics medium. Every tiny detail, from Shaw's heavy eyelids to the way Ness dangles a cigarette, begs to be seen, yet doesn't fight with the flow of the page.
Harris' beautiful illustrations guide us through a complicated but compelling story; genre-wise, we're looking at what appears to be shaping up as a supernatural alt-history, and a fascinating one at that. Watching Eliot Ness make a deal with Shaw because he feels robbed of his greatest get is a unique play on a popular trope, and it opens up an incredibly broad range of possibilities.
The desert scene from Issue #1 simultaneously makes more sense (in that it builds to the overall connectedness of the story) and less sense (in that I'm now deeply confused about what either party was doing in the desert) after Ness and Shaw meet for the second time. The big picture? Pretty murky right now.
CHIN MUSIC is complicated, and I'm not entirely sure where it's going, but it's so nice to look at that I don't mind. I'm looking forward to future chapters, just to see where this wild, stylized version of Eliot Ness is headed -- and to stare at more of Harris' positively stunning pages.