Return to the Cyberpunk World of ‘Old City Blues’ by Giannis Milonogiannis [Review + Preview]
The first chapter of cyberpunk cop drama Old City Blues vol. 2 opens with a quote from Joe Keatinge — the writer of Glory, Morbius and Hell Yeah, and one of the editors of the Eisner-winning “graphic mixtape” comics anthology PopGun — in which he declares cartoonist Giannis Milonogiannis’ work to be “the world comics style prophesied by Paul Pope fully realized.” Keatinge is referencing Pope’s frequently espoused creative ideal that sees comic book authors draw inspiration from a multitude of works and cultures beyond their immediate experience, with a view towards creating “21st century comics… which can speak to people everywhere.”
That’s extremely high praise for Milonogiannis, who’s still a newcomer (he’s also drawn several issues of Prophet), but Keatinge knows what he’s talking about when it comes to comic book art, particularly that from the studios of Europe and Japan. After reading Milonogiannis’ work — which is a seductive, moody synthesis of the characterization, action, pacing and drawing styles from eurocomics, manga and American influences — it’s very easy to see why Keatinge was reminded of Pope’s world comics “prophecy” by the pages of Old City Blues.
But if this young cartoonist’s embodiment of the progressive creative philosophy of one of our mediums great masters doesn’t really impress you, that’s fine. The riveting future-cop yarns of Old City Blues surely will.
Available in hardcover and digitally from Archaia, the first volume of Old City Blues followed series hero Detective Solano as he attempted to solve the murder of an eccentric robotics CEO in New Athens, a cyberpunky, near-future version of the Greek capital. Volume two is on sale now, and like its predecessor, the book is an immersive journey into Milonogiannis’ gritty but grandiose vision of a world constantly threatened and corrupted by its own technological advancement, laced with conspiratorial twists and super-cool action to keep you blazing through the book in a single sitting.
At times Old City Blues feels like a cyberpunk version of Sin City, particularly in the way Milonogiannis very selectively reveals details about the past and bizarre nature of New Athens, the Old City (what’s left of Old Athens, now a “polluted wasteland” of outlaw activity following a massive flood) and its very peculiar denizens. The one we learn the most about is of course Solano, a man born and raised in New Athens and a cop determined to get the bad guys despite what he himself describes as a hopeless cycle of political corruption, corporate crime and public malaise. Over the course of “Private Enemy,” the first of two stories collected in the new Archaia paperback, we learn why Solano might be so driven to heal the city one cybernetic band-aid at a time.
It’s become a cliche in genre fiction that the setting is itself a character, but it’s really true in Old City Blues. Like the eerie Somnopolis of Dean Motter’s Mister X, New Athens is a constantly changing, almost living thing that seems to poison its inhabitants. In Somnopolis, the symptom was insomnia and the resulting insanity. In New Athens, technology is the curse, and every story of Old City Blues finds Solano running up against a crime that could only have happened in a place where humanity was removed from the innovation equation. Aided by Thermidor, the cynical and snarky woman running the New Athens police’s Mobile Gun Unit (read: mecha squad), we see the intrepid detective take on crazy cyborgs, computer-aided psychics, baddies who download their consciousnesses into disposable robot bodies, and more.
That Milonogiannis has created such a consistently enjoyable comic at such a young age (he’s still in his early 20s!) is impressive on its face, so it’s very exciting to imagine the worlds he’ll take us to as his career progresses. For now, though, you’re invited to visit New Athens. Indeed, Detective Solano literally welcomes you in this perfect opening sequence from Old City Blues vol. 2, which you can buy now in finer comics shops and digitally from ComiXology. The book goes on sale at Amazon later this month.