Comic Review – Seduction of the Innocent #4

  • Writer: Ande Parks
  • Artist: Esteve Polls
  • Colorist: Salvatore Aiala Studios
  • Letter: Simon Bowland
  • Cover: Francesco Francavilla
  • Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
  • Release Date: March 2nd, 2016

Seduction of the Innocent #4 published by Dynamite Entertainment is the final chapter of the crime noir mini-series written by Ande Parks with art by Esteve Polls in which we learn the final fate of FBI Agent Thomas Jennings and the missing Lanza children.  

Ande Parks, Esteve Polls and cover artist Francesco Francavilla were the creative team behind Dynamite Entertainment’s Lone Ranger series for 25 consecutive issues before the series ended. When I heard the team was back together for Seduction of the Innocent, adding it to my pull list was a no brainer. Parks managed to capture the essential characteristics of the Lone Ranger, so I knew he could do equal justice in writing a true noir crime series. 

Seduction of the Innocent #4 cover
Seduction of the Innocent #4 Cover by Francesco Francavilla

Seduction of the Innocent was the title of a book published in 1954 by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, a name that still sends chills down the spines of comic book aficionados. Wertham claimed to have clinical evidence that the depictions of sex, violence, and drug use in comics were the cause of juvenile delinquency. The claim alarmed parents to the point they began to call for censorship of comic books. In the wake of the public outcry, Congress launched an inquiry into the nature of the comic book industry. A group of publishers voluntarily formed a self-governing Comic Code Authority (CCA) in October 1954. The code prohibited violent images in comics, banned words like “horror” and “terror” from comic book titles, forbid the use of ghouls, zombies, vampires, werewolves and the like in stories and required that those depicted as being on the wrong side of the law ultimately pay for their crimes. When Dynamite was ready to publish the mini-series titled Seduction of the Innocent, the setting for the story changed from the aforementioned congressional hearings to a crime noir story set during the same period, the contents of which ironically would have been banned according to the CCA guidelines. To fully appreciate how Ande Parks wrote a series that included many elements that would not have been allowed by the CCA in comic books, an understanding the essential features of a true crime noir story is helpful.

It’s a dark place, and the city is a darker spot than most. People lie, hurt and kill each other every day.

Crime dramas bring to mind the black and white noir films of the 1940s and 1950s.  I turned to an excerpt from the Panorama du Film American by Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton to gain a better understanding of what defines a film noir.  To paraphrase the authors, the key elements of a film noir are moral ambivalence and criminality of motives that make the [reader] co-experience anguish and insecurity. In Seduction of the Innocent by Ande Parks, we discover there is corruption within the police department. The chief of police urges Agent Jennings to focus on finding the missing Lanza children and not the killers of their parents. He also makes a veiled threat to Jennings when the chief warns him that one man cannot change the world and if he persisted, he or his family will end up hurt.  Agent Jennings also has nightmares of his unborn son telling him the killers are coming for everyone and there is nothing he can do to stop them.  Based on Borde and Chaumeton’s definition film noir, Parks story passes the litmus test. 

Esteve Polls is an underrated and underutilized Spanish artist who worked on the Lone Ranger with Ande Parks and Django Zorro by film director Quentin Tarantino and writer Matt Wagner. Polls is an artist in the classic tradition who pays as much attention to the details in foreground as the background in each panel. The colors used in this series, while serviceable, did not seem to add anything to the noir look and feel of the story. If anything I feel it muted the impact of Polls work. I would have preferred seeing Polls’ illustration in black and white only or embellished by the Lone Ranger series colorist Marcelo Pinto.

Seduction of the Innocent #4 is a fitting end to a crime noir story. The innocence seduced is not just that of the missing children, but also of Jennings belief that he could change the world. If you have never read or seen a true crime noir story, add something new to your reading list. I recommend seeking out all four issues of the series to appreciate the creative team’s achievement in capturing the essential elements of a true crime noir story.

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About the author

Christopher Calloway

Christopher Calloway is the small press and idependent comic creator editor for Word of the Nerd. He is long-time comic book reader and collector who is passionate about comics and their creators.

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