Stopping by the Action Labs booth at Comic-Con 2016 was a mistake. They were set up in Artist Alley and it was deliberate ambush. I barely got away with my daughter’s college tuition.
So far, I’ve yet to be disappointed with their titles. But, I almost passed up Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab, until Brockton McKinney strongly recommended it. (He threw in AmeriKarate at a discounted rate.)
The premise is fairly straight forward, a passenger dies in Cyrus’s cab but haunts it until his murderer is found. In the hands of writer Dave Dwonch, this is a story that moves.
Dwonch is not merely a gifted story teller, but he has a wonder felicity with the English language. When we first meet Cyrus, he tells us of the philosophy of the cabbie. “The cab is always between here and there. Between where you are and where you want to be. It’s a little like purgatory really. I’m just the guy that takes them from the gray back to their technicolor lives. A nameless schlep that they’ll never remember–and who they trust with their lives from the minute we meet.”
The writing continues to hit this high note throughout the first story arc. Cyrus is a wonderfully real and well realized person. He is not some two-dimensional foil designed to move the story along. Cyrus and his life, and well as the life of 16-year-old Michael Bernbaum, the murder victim are the story. After the boy dies, Cyrus, a decent and emphatic man has trouble getting back to work. When he does, he discovers that Michael is haunting the cab and can’t move on. Cyrus then makes it his mission to find out who killed Michael and why.
Dwonch’s artful depiction of Cyrus is so well done that it makes total sense that he would take on this mission. In most stories of this genre the protagonist is reluctant, but not Cyrus. His deep well of compassion and decency will not allow him to rest until Michael can.
Anna Lencioni is the artist and does a magnificent job of bringing the characters to life. In the first chapter, she perfectly captures the scenes and aftermath of Michael death and the impact on Cyrus, ending with him in the hospital collapsing in his girl friend’s arm, overwhelmed by grief and guilt. She has not only a great eye for setting up the scene, but also perfectly captures the emotional impact.
I’m not sure if is a good thing or sad that this comic got its initial funding from Kickstarter. Personally, I think the publishers should have been knocking down Dwonch’s door for a chance to publish this. Yet, by going the Kickstarter route, he has maintained his ownership and control, and was able to bring his vision to life without interference.
While I have never heard of either Dwonch or Lencioni before, I will be on the lookout for them in the future, as I will be also collecting the next Cyrus story arc.
Dwonch and Lencioni are a powerful team and have produced a comic which shames a lot of what is produced on television. Between the depth of the characters, the smart dialog, and the quick pacing, Action Labs has produced another winner.