Fresh off the heels of his last Black Mask series Breathless, Pat Shand kicks off his newest concoction, Snap Flash Hustle, which has been touted by Shand (to our very own David Brooke!) as “Breaking Bad by way of Sex and the City.” Along for the ride this time is Emily Pearson of The Wilds fame. In our interview with Pat and Emily, they gave a lot of revealing insight about what influenced them coming into this story. Now that it’s out, how does it measure up?
For starters, the creators don’t waste any time in trying to hook your attention. There is so much going on in the first two pages alone that you need to spend a few minutes taking it all in. A credit card flies into the streets. A homeless guy is sleeping. Then a cellphone, then a makeup kit, then a purse. Then we finally see a woman dangling from a building screaming for dear life, followed by the tantalizing title of “FICO” and what appears to be associated FICO scores. These are all symbols of materialism, consumerism, and the logical and possible of all of that. With these two pages alone, Shand makes good on his promise to continue to focus on real life issues that matter, and he does it in a great way by mixing in the surreal/fictional/dramatic to get us hooked.
But that is just the beginning. As we delve into the plot, we find that he goes into so many other aspects of life today, including social media, marriage, racial tension, gender roles and evolving relationship dynamics. Clearly, there is a lot that Shand somehow manages to pack into just this one issue but the way he manages to accomplish all this and still keep a very straightforward and easy to understand plot is nothing short of brilliant. The cliff notes version: Haley Mori, our protagonist, is an alt-model who has serious money issues and relationship worries, and winds up getting mixed up with a bunch of her peers who are not what they seem to be. That’s how she winds up in the position she’s in at the start of the issue. Obviously, based on the preview we know she is able to slip out of her predicament, but the question is at what cost? This is the question that hovers not just over the issue, but also over the narrative of the overall series.
I’ve got to compliment Shand on the usage of several literary techniques that add a level of fun to the proceedings. First off, by showing a dramatic scene and then rewinding to how we got there, it manages to captivate the reader’s attention right away and hooks them until the end (or the middle in this case, which shows it’s not just a cheap trick). He also doubles down on what was the case in Breathless, where he used a catchy, media-friendly pitch that is actually a cover for a much more serious issue under the surface. In Breathless, it was “Buffy meets big pharma” masking the greater issue of “losing your humanity.” In this series, it’s shaping up to be “Breaking Bad meets Sex and the City” masking the greater issue of “how debt influences us.” This is incredibly rewarding and a great payoff for those who will take the time to stick with the series and see it through; so I’m hoping the same holds true here. The one knock I had was with Haley herself; I would have liked to learn more about how she got into the mess she’s in. Why is she so in debt? Why did she get into alt-modeling? What pressures were on her marriage that led it to become an open relationship? As it stands, it doesn’t give us much to empathize with her on other than “she’s in debt.”
The art is cool, with a painted technique being used and a possibly deliberate focus on pinks, purples and darks, with a great contrast from the start of the issue (darkness) to the end of the issue (lightness); with the reader left wondering if all of that is fake. Interestingly, the only major colors that are not derived from these palettes are those associated with Haley’s husband (via his jacket and his troupe on stage) and her simple looking purse — containing true necessities that seem to be glossed over and by the end, may both have been lost to dreams of more money. The one thing that left me a bit wanting was the expressions — I was hoping for a bit more diversity beyond the characters only showing happiness, shame, worry and anger, but I suspect that as the story ramps up there will be more opportunities to show emotional range.
Pat Shand looks to have done it again with yet another lady-centric series that blending the dramatic and the mundane, with a dash of exploration of humanity on the side, aided by some fantastic usage of symbolic colors by Emily Pearson. The occupation of the protagonist shouldn’t matter in terms of relatability, because the issue and, more importantly, the desperation she faces is something all of us have probably dealt with at some point in our lives. The question the creative team looks to be challenging us with is how we would respond when we are faced with those pressures. I can’t wait to find out whether Haley survives or if she loses her soul in the process.