Written by Andrew Vachss, Adapted & Drawn by Joe R. Lansdale, Charles de Lint, Neal Barrett, Geof Darrow, Warren Pleece, Tim Bradstreet, and others
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format: Softcover, black and white, $19.95
Category: Adult Drama
Dewey: 741.5 VAC or FIC VAC
Subjects: graphic novels; comics and comic books; action and adventure; violence-fiction; murder-fiction
Reviewed by: Kat Kan
Vachss is best know for his series of novels about Burke, a hard-nosed, tough private detective who hates anyone who abuses anyone weaker, but especially those who abuse children. Hard Looks collects some of his short stories, some of which have appeared in prose collections, and which have been illustrated or adapted and illustrated by different artists. Writers such as Joe R. Lansdale, Charles de Lint, and Neal Barrett, Jr., among others, adapted stories into comic book form. Other stories remain in Vachss' prose and are illustrated by Geof Darrow, Warren Pleece, Tim Bradstreet, and others. All of the stories showcase the darker side of humanity. Stories such as "Drive By" and "Warlord" show teens who have gone bad and are willing to commit murder just to belong with a group. "Head Case" and "Statute of Limitations" feature a character the reader knows only as Cross, a guy willing to help victims enact strange but apt punishments upon their tormentors. "Step On a Crack," for all its toughness, is also one of the more poignant stories, told from the viewpoint of a cop who is openly gay, about his relationship through the years with a friend from the neighborhood who has committed homophobic crimes. "A Flash of White" takes the reader into the mind of a man who has been horribly twisted emotionally into hating all women. There are seventeen stories collected in the book.
All of the stories are effectively told, so much so that I couldn’t read the book at one sitting. Some of them were so disturbing that I had to set it aside for a while. After I finished, I was in a sour mood - I realized later that I had caught the mood from the stories. Vachss is a damned good writer; he's also on a mission to get others as angry at child abuse and other crimes as he is. Whether one agrees with the draconian justice served upon the perpetrators is another question. The violence, nudity, and moral ambiguity portrayed in some of the stories make this book one for adult readers. Libraries which carry Vachss' prose novels should also carry Hard Looks. This book can serve as an introduction to Vachss' writing; anyone impressed by this book (and many will be) should seek out his other books – they’re listed at the back. Anyone who enjoys crime fiction, expecially crime noir, should read this.