BookBin2011: CSI: Serial

So remember when I was in Toronto a few weeks ago and we met up with a bunch of my groovy ImagiFriendsTM to go to this used book store that specializes in geeky books?

Yeah, so while I was there, I stumbled upon their graphic novel section, which was kind of small but still decent. And what, dear denizens, should I find but a CSI graphic novel! After quickly perusing it, I realized that it wasn’t one of the collections that I’d seen before, which, to be brutally honest, had some of the most horrifying and amateurish artwork I think I’ve ever seen in a comic book. I need to figure out which collection that was, because I don’t want to have anything to do with it or the artist behind it.

CSI: Serial, however, was drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, with flashback and “speculation” (think those moments on the show where the CSIs speculate about what they think might have happened based on evidence they’ve just collected or testimony they’ve just heard) artwork done by Ashley Wood. I have to say, this was one of my favorite aspects of the art in this collection: the delineation of styles, with the main story presented in more traditional comic line art and the flashbacks and speculation moments done in rough, abstract watercolors. I also liked how the lettering was done in the flashback sections, with the text captured in boxes that looked like little manila folders. The extra-nice touch? Each CSI had a different “tabbed manila folder” design for their dialogue during these abstract sections. For example, Grissom would have a folder with a green tab all the way to the left of the box, while Sara would have a folder with a red centered tab. Subtle, clever way to help us keep track of who was providing the exposition.

As for the main artwork, Rodriguez did a laudable job of bringing our favorite band of Vegas investigators into the two-dimensional comic book world. They were passable but not precise duplications; there was always something just a little off about each of the comic depictions. I think it might have been that all their heads were slightly too big for their bodies. Made them all look a bit like bobble heads. However, with the exception of his depiction of Greg (which looked nothing like Eric Szmanda), Rodriguez’s renderings were easily identifiable, including those of secondary and even tertiary CSI characters. Plus, I finally discovered the origin and meaning of this panel, which I found a while ago and has made me laugh every time I’ve looked at it:

Image courtesy of Jorja Fox: Online

Yes, I really am that juvenile. You have to admit, though, out of context? You know you laughed, too. Nice eyebrow arch, though, right? Right.

So what about the actual story behind CSI: Serial? Written by Max Allan Collins (who is probably best known for: A) his graphic novel The Road to Perdition; and B) looking like an Elton John clone), the primary case is all about a Jack the Ripper copycat killer, with a secondary case that’s not terribly difficult to figure out but was run by Sara and Nick, which is a pairing that we don’t see that often on the show anymore. It’s admittedly not the most original or creative storytelling for the very first CSI comic arc, but I will say this in this collection’s favor: A lot of times when production companies decide that they want to saturate the market with as much merchandise as they possibly can pertaining to their show, in an attempt to ride the coattails of popularity for as long as they can, what you often get is something rushed and inferior. With Serial, IDW Publishing gave CSI fans a solidly drawn comic with a story that, while not earth-shaking in originality, is thoughtfully crafted, well-written, and an enjoyable ride.

Final Verdict: Not only am I keeping this collection, I’ve done a little research and discovered that Collins, Rodriguez, and Wood teamed up for several other collections, which are supposedly superior in story and presentation to this one. I perhaps may have sought some of these out for further investigation. Analysis may soon be forthcoming.