High Crimes From Bottom Feeders
Dec 14, 2018
by Vince Brusio
Is it wrong to like characters in The Godfather? They’re all mafia. Criminals. So why would you like them? The same could be said of the people in Christopher Sebela’s High Crimes TP (DEC180082) from Image Comics. The people in this book make money off of the dead. They extort money from grieving families. Why would you ever want to have a beer with any of them? Precisely the reason why you want to read about them in this trade paperback. Those who feed at the bottom are high in the food chain when it comes to villainy. Or otherwise…they’re totally normal.
Vince Brusio: Most books will hinge on you developing some sympathy for the main character, but Zan Jensen having the side-job of grave robber makes it pretty hard to feel anything for her, wouldn’t you agree? So is that done by design?
Christopher Sebela: On the surface, it definitely makes it hard to sympathize for her, but High Crimes is as much a character study about Zan and how she wound up doing such an awful job and how she deals with doing the things she does now, especially when it becomes responsible for setting an entire government hit squad on her back. In the end, Zan might not be likable to everyone — I don't know of any real people who are 100% loved — so while I think she's great despite her many flaws, I'm totally fine if others approach her with a leery eye. I like broken people and Zan was the first big one I ever wrote in comics.
Vince Brusio: Give us a better idea of the characters in High Crimes. What makes them tick? Are they easy to trigger? Despite their grisly business, would we still want to have a beer with them?
Christopher Sebela: Besides Zan, who is doing her job because she's hiding out in the least likely place from a past disgrace that haunts her wherever she goes, we have her partner, Haskell, who is the dad you both always wanted to have and never wanted to have. As good a dude as he is, he's still crooked as heck. Finally, we have Sullivan Mars, whose body sets off all the alarm bells and gets this nightmare kicked into gear, who isn't a ton of fun, mostly because he's spent his life as a black ops agent doing horrible things and has started to become aware of the extent of the damage he's wrought. I think any of them would be fun to drink with, though that all depends on how grim you want the conversation to get.
Vince Brusio: What style of thriller could best describe the drama in High Crimes? Work from Tarantino? Hitchcock? David Lynch?
Christopher Sebela: It's a bit Hitchcockian, in terms of setting suspense in unlikely places that are fraught with their own inherent kinds of danger, but I don't know what I can compare it to. We really set out to make our own thing and we didn't have other stuff in mind when we did. Because our setting is so unto itself and climbing Everest involves a lot of procedures and rules you just can't skip, we had to approach everything as freshly as possible. It's hard to avoid light comparisons to something like Cliffhanger or The Eiger Sanction, but hopefully readers will agree that outside of our setting, High Crimes kind of stands on its own.
Vince Brusio: Given the nature of business in High Crimes, TV shows like Six Feet Under would come to mind if someone tries to put their finger on the nature of the story. So is it safe to say that you’ve mastered the art of gallows humor for High Crimes? Irony on steroids creep up in any plot twists?
Christopher Sebela: The book has a lot of dead bodies in it. The body of Sullivan Mars is what kicks this whole story off. But the grave-robbing aspect is a small aspect of this story, too. It's much more about people trying to fix themselves and people trying to run away from doing that, using things like the impossible dream of summiting Mount Everest as substitutes for much smaller, more grounded issues they're trying to overcome. I dunno that I can write a book without jokes, so there definitely are some, but we try to give this climb and the Sherpas and the climbers as much respect as possible. All these people are risking life and limb for a goal that's so short and transitory, there's something kind of noble in it, even if it's driven by mania and other weird brain stuff.
Vince Brusio: What makes artist Ibrahim’s Moustafa’s artwork dead-on for High Crimes (pun intended)? Why did you find it so compelling?
Christopher Sebela: Ibrahim is amazing at big-scale storytelling. Action scenes and putting things in relief to the hugeness of Everest, the way he can draw city scenes as compelling as scenes in huge snowy wastelands — he really makes those parts of the book sing. But he's also an amazing up-close storyteller. His people react like people, there's so much expression in body language and faces and eyes, especially people who are swaddled in goretex snowsuits and goggles and masks, it becomes a lot harder to make that stuff translate, but somehow Ibrahim did it. And no matter what terrible stuff I threw at him in my scripts, he always somehow made it work and drew a compelling journey up Mount Everest without ever having left the country. Plus he's a great dancer, and that's always good to have in your pocket if you need it.
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.