At my first glance at the first page of Bylines In Blood #3, I already knew that it was going to be a great issue. The neo-noir murder mystery series continues with its penultimate issue that takes a closer look at Satya’s motivation as she hunts for the Hidden King.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Bylines In Blood #3!
Bylines In Blood #3 doesn’t directly pick up from the last issue (where Satya was left bloodied and bruised by Mayor Wilkes’ cops) but lands us in a trippy dream where Satya is an actual noir detective. Artist Aneke crafts a cute couple of pages of what a Lady Dick noir series would look like, complete with a subtle but distinct change in font and dialogue balloon design by letterer Cardinal Rae. It’s a scene that both reveals Satya’s tumultuous mental state and is just a cool look into an alternate series I wouldn’t mind reading more of.
A touching scene in the hospital with Satya’s mother follows, and it’s a refreshing divergence from the “strict South Asian parent only wants their child to be a doctor” stereotype. It accompanies the other stereotypes around non-hegemonic identities co-writers Erica Schultz and Van Jensen have avoided with ease. Identity of course isn’t the focus of Bylines In Blood, but when it’s handled with care, especially with minorities, it enriches and legitimizes a story all the more.
At this point, Satya is highly suspect that Mayor Wilkes in all his corruption and villainous grandstanding is the Hidden King, the one who killed her former mentor Denzin. She goes to see Denzin’s daughter Istina, who brought the case to Satya initially, to update her on it. But instead of getting disbelief or anger, she gets fired from the case out of worry that she won’t be able to get herself out of the hole she’s digging. Aneke hits the expressions on the nail in this scene with Satya barely holding in tears and Istina’s surprising care plain to see and feel.
But Satya won’t stop, and after a bit more sleuthing she finds Wilkes’ secret hideout. Though, she also encounters the invisible assassin again who, in a twist I didn’t see coming but one that made sense, slashes Wilkes’ throat disguised as Satya herself. Aneke blends the assassin’s chameleon-like façade with the rest of the art so well that for a second I thought it was actually Satya who killed Wilkes.
An enthralling chase and fight sequence comes next and Satya’s rage is burning as she barrels through the cops who previously beat her up to get to the assassin. Aneke’s colors in Bylines In Blood always elevate the story, and especially now with these scenes. From the sinister maroon of Wilkes’ hideout, the drab browns of The Gulch, the pastel flats that background the action, to the cool metropolitan blues, the colors all inject a striking liveliness without detracting from the sincerity of the story.
The whole issue essentially explores Satya’s unrelenting determination to find Denzin’s killer. Whether in dreams or severely injured, she won’t stop searching, almost in a self-destructive way because she blames herself for his death. It’s a fervorous spiral that I can’t wait to see resolved in the conclusion.
The truth is always more complicated than it seems, and Bylines In Blood #3’s vivid, innovative art and ever-gripping plot can’t help but make you want to figure it out.
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