Infuriatingly, Giannis Milonogiannis was just 23 years old when Archaia Entertainment published the first volume of his web comic OLD CITY BLUES. And while the plot is a little thin, and lacks the sophistication of the works it borrows its central conceits from – Blade Runner, in particular – it’s an entertaining sci-fi action romp, and a fabulous precursor to Milonogiannis’s contemporary comics work.
OLD CITY BLUES is set in 2048 in the city of New Athens, built on the ruins of the country once known as Greece, which was decimated in an apocalyptic flood. The city is marred by corrupt politicians and ambiguous corporations; crime is deeply embedded in its roots. It’s up to the New Athens Police to keep the criminals at bay, and two officers in particular: Solano and Thermidor, two adrenaline-fueled shoot-first-and-don’t-bother-with-questions cops, who are essentially caricatures of every 80s action film hero and heroine. Milonogiannis doesn’t pretend this is a vehicle for character exploration though – from the off readers understand this is exclusively about the action, and about showcasing his art, and if you’re willing to accept OLD CITY BLUES as such, you’re in for a fun ride.
This volume consists of one feature story and a shorter narrative. The lead follows Solano and Thermidor’s investigation into the murder of the founder of the tech giant Hayashi Corporation, which is vested in cybernetic augmentation. While the action scenes – and there are many – are spectacularly rendered, the dialogue is trite, and at times, tiresome. Milonogiannis wisely avoids drawn-out conversations, transitioning scenes better-suited to his strengths. His artwork is scratchy and unrefined, but it suits the tone. From his depictions of mechanical armour and futuristic cityscapes to the precise layout of his panels, Milonogiannis is a fine artist, whose work has continued to improve and evolved as his career extends. The few weaknesses on display in this first volume of OLD CITY BLUES have been almost entirely whitewashed now.
OLD CITY BLUES is a one-man show; Milonogiannis writes, illustrates and letters the entire package. While there’s no denying it feels very much like a portfolio piece, and a creator very much at the beginning of his journey, there’s something uniquely invigorating about a graphic novel concocted with a raw, singular vision.