David Lloyd's first original project since the release of the V for Vendetta film is a graphic novel about crime and corruption. The content bears little resemblance to V but both books display an awareness of how political systems can decay under human failings.
Lloyd has created Franklin City as the place where cops and criminals fight a war on each other not seen since Al Capone's Chicago. Det. Joe Conelli is our guide in the story. Lloyd makes an interesting choice in not having the protagonist be the one honorable cop in a police force that chooses tactics matching the underworld's for thuggery. When prodded by his girlfriend he admits he's a cog in the machine, resigned to "the way things are." I think it's important that Lloyd spotlighted this mindset in the book as it is this type of apathy that presents the threat to social order. The cops employing revenge is dangerous in itself but it is the attitude that Conelli possesses that enables such behavior to continue, with this book illustrating the results.
Conelli might be something of a faceless drone on the street but Lloyd flips between the real world and the world of Conelli's dreams. The book opens with a strange scene reminiscent of some of Steve Ditko's more psychedelic work. Conelli is trying to reconcile his feelings of honor and heroism with the cynical man he is now. He feels like he's being pulled by two forces in a world he doesn't understand. These dreams are one way Lloyd creates those tense feeling that rest upon the entire story.
No other characters stands out like Conelli does. Lloyd doesn't develop the rest of the cast as much as he sets up this feeling of being under pressure in a briskly told tale. What are memorable are scenes of violence, such as one sequences that lifts the technique Lloyd's V collaborator Alan Moore used in the "Night Olympics" stories. The book is 96 pages and Lloyd moves things along quickly. The ending brings both the plot and emotions of the story, explicit in Conelli's dream, together. The pacing is excellent but I wished for something that I hadn't seen in many other crime shows and films, even if those shows didn't have the benefit of looking like David Lloyd drew them.
Lloyd's art is wonderful throughout the book. Of all the British artists who were inspired by Frank Hampson's photorealistic style Lloyd has done more than most to combine that style with modern sensibilities. Here Photoshop tricks are used in to amp up the feelings of violence and hectic city life. Lloyd's a master of color and one of the best things about the book is how often scenes would look like old photographs of the 1930's come to life, even though the book takes place in modern times. A character might bring up that history but it's the visual tone of the book that drives the point home. Kickback is a book that looks at those times when frustration and passions set in to men trusted to guard the lives of others and what it feels like to be in a situation governed by anger.