"High Crimes" #1 from Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa is a hard crime comic with a superb twist on the heart of the narrative. You could say lead characters Haskell Price and Zan Jensen are working cold cases, but there isn't a case until they officially dig it up. These partners rob the graves of failed Mt. Everest climbers to sell the information back to their families. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it for money. Their latest find triggers a series of events that brings a global conspiracy to their doorstep and threatens to make their life even harder.
Christopher Sebela works hard on every page --13 for sequential narrative and 2 title cards -- to ensure he loads this first issue with enough character, location and mystery to both intrigue and satisfy new fans. The two leads, both very different, are well developed in this space and much of this is due to the packed panels Sebela writes into the page. The dense story is ably executed by Ibrahim Moustafa, so the final product is hearty with text but not laborious to work through in the slightest.
"High Crimes" succeeds because it's a good genre with solid characters matched to a top location twisted with a fantastic narrative hook. Not one element of this book is left to rest on its laurels. Sebela and Moustafa ensure everything has a deceptive shadow or drastic turn in it. You can't predict where this book will go and that's not in some new school level of random but more in the intricate way it's been planned and plotted. This is a first issue that lays out a lot of good information and leaves enough off the table that the mystery is sure to hook for months to come. Our grave robbers have dug up a new case but they are courting customers of which they cannot fathom their desires.
Ibrahim Moustafa is a great match for this high concept crime book. There are so many pages where the panel composition is chosen specifically to meet the needs of that very moment. Moustafa isn't ruling by the numbers, he twists panels, or inserts them for the ultimate storytelling effect. His character delivery is a big reason why I care about the leads and their ultimate fate. I like that this isn't a noir soaked book but rather a high adventure as much as it is about the criminal element. This book is somewhere past Elmore Leonard and courting a Clive Cussler vibe and the art matches this in many ways.
"High Crimes" #1 is a spectacular start to yet another winner from Monkeybrain Comics. Sebela and Moustafa are settling in for a book that's going to blend a few genres into a mixer and deliver something that feels very much like a comic in the way it is executed. For $0.99, it's pretty much a must-buy. 2013 looks like a year where readers shying away from digital comics should strongly consider jumping in. Some of the best new work in comics is exclusively digital and "High Crimes" is yet another excellent example.