From Publishers Weekly
Set in New Orleans in the first days after Hurricane Katrina, Dark Rain--much like Johnson's lauded 2008 graphic novel Incognegro--uses the trappings of gritty crime fiction to explore deeper issues of race in America. Dabny, a decorated soldier and former customs officer, languishes in a Houston halfway house after being convicted of taking a bribe. Desperate to raise child-support money, he agrees to ferry his bunkmate Emmit into New Orleans's submerged Lower 9th Ward, where Emmit plans to rob his former employer, the Banque de Congo Square. The pair soon runs afoul of (metaphor alert) Dark Rain, a corrupt private security firm led by Dabny's former commanding officer, and some pretty standard caper-movie action ensues. Johnson's dialogue is frequently witty and incisive, and the book's view of the utter failure of public services in the city's poor neighborhoods and at the New Orleans Convention Center cuts to the marrow. Unfortunately, the whole affair is dragged down by the familiarity of its somewhat tacked-on central plot. And while Gane's slightly cartoonish style enlivens the book's moments of wry humor, a neo-noir caper story with a healthy dose of social commentary demands a certain gravity that's missing.
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Whereas Josh Neufeld’s documentary comic A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge (2009) traced the crucible of living through Katrina, this graphic novel uses the city’s destruction more as setting than story. A couple of ex-cons (the righteous Dabny and scheming Emmit) plan to rob what they assume will be an abandoned bank. They look to an independent security firm called Dark Rain, headed by a sociopathic former soldier, Colonel Driggs, to get them back into New Orleans and maybe lend them a bit of spare plastic explosives. Naturally, Driggs finds it more convenient to just usurp their plan while attending to other shady pursuits and cuts them out of the action. Dabny and Emmit navigate the flooded streets themselves and face both the greed and heroism such calamities can inspire. Gane’s artwork is lighter than one might expect but capably carries the drama and nicely employs varying shades of aqua blue as the only coloring. In all, a fine heist story set against a compelling portrait not only of the storm’s destruction but also of the opportunistic hole it punched straight through a battered city. --Ian Chipman