Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 5

aloha 5

Today, Patrick and Mark are discussing Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 5, originally released August 24th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: Back when Mark and I wrote about the first issue of Aloha, Hawaii Dick, Mark had a problem with the bait-and-switch nature of the issue. What purported to be a first issue was actually another entry in a series dating back to 2002. And while the summary page at the beginning of the issue promised Hawaiian spirits and other elements lifted from tiki mythology, the first volume is grounded-as-fuck, and takes place entirely on the mainland. Even fans of the series might be thrown to see the series’ regular protagonist replaced by his little brother Mike. Through the course of its five issues, Aloha, Hawaiian Dick has become a mini-series about the dissonance between the story you expect and the story you actually witness. Writer B. Clay Moore leans in to every unanswered question and ultimately rests on the most satisfying mysteries of all: the everyday mystery of “what happens next?”

Moore accomplishes this by tossing near endless curve balls at the reader. The first curve ball is also one of the most striking: Jacob Wyatt’s blindingly brilliant art (which we’ve praised on every write-up we’ve done for this series) has been replaced by the work of Paul Reinwand. Reinwand is working from Wyatt’s layouts, and seems to be affecting some of Wyatt’s other visual ticks – like inking a lot of extra lines and taking a painterly approach to coloring, especially when it comes to backgrounds. But Reinwand is also a much cleaner artist, and this difference becomes most apparent between panels. All of Wyatt’s panel dividers are drawn on with pencil, the texture of those lines left on the page. But Reinwand heavily inks all of his lines, including the panel dividers. I love love love Wyatt’s pencils, but when immediately compared to Reinwand’s, they feel incomplete. So now, as the story shifts focus back over to Byrd in the fifth issue, the art finally looks “complete.”

The first couple pages are all about shocking both the reader and Byrd into accepting this change. The first page is a gory mess of poor Tread’s bloody fingers, followed by one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a digital comic – a large blank grey page.

poor tread's fingers

I can’t be certain if this is how the physical release printed or what, but this is an amazing insistence on the singularity of the image of Tread’s mangled hand. It’s important that this beat make an impression — it does — for precisely the reason mentioned on the page: Tread should not be able to gig ever again. That’s something that Byrd will bring up later, and a question that future-Mike kinda shrugs off when recounting the story later. It doesn’t add up, and Moore and Reinwand want us to sit with that logical hiccup.

The set-up is all about making an uneasy pivot, narratively speaking. From atmospheric detective story about a rookie P.I. in a strange land, Aloha, Hawaiian Dick 5 transforms into the action-packed victory-lap and send off to John Byrd. Ironically, this is several steps closer to the kind of story Mark was asking for in our discussion of the first issue. Wyatt and Reinwand stage Byrd’s raid on Masaki’s compound like he’s a goddamned terminator – you’ll notice everyone else diving for cover, but Byrd’s on a mission.

Byrd's on a roll

And it looks like the art team is actually having fun with this development. Check out that totally diagetic “KRA-KOWM!!!” in the last panel – it casts a shadow! The whole sequence is an unbelievably invigorating shootout, both for the audience, and seemingly for the character of John Byrd. Dude takes a bullet to the shoulder, but it doesn’t stop him from grinding up Masaki in the rotary blade of a speedboat’s motor. Wyatt and Reinwand relish these heroic moments: Masaki spends almost three whole pages clinging off the side of the boat before he’s dealt with completely.

And the same is true of the conclusion to this series, which is about as much as us saying goodbye to Byrd as is it about Byrd saying goodbye to Hawaii. We keep cutting back to the meeting that sends him packing to the mainland, but the real-time story progress in those last couple pages is all about being on beach, watching the sun set. It’s a kind of conversation, and Wyatt and Reinwand honor that with an obvious shot-reverse-shot structure.

byrd says aloha

Check out how high the camera angle is in that second panel – we’re seeing Byrd from the perspective of the sunset. I can’t imagine a more romantic and fitting send-off for John Byrd.

But, as the series is ALOHA, Hawaiian Dick, we’re clearly saying both goodbye and hello. Future-Mike assures us that there’s plenty more story to be told, but, y’know, that’s not the story he’s telling. Mark, how’d you like the way this thing wrapped up? Will you be coming back for whatever mini-series comes next? And holy shit, it looks like Moore is in talks with NBC to put Hawaiian Dick on TV? I’d watch that the next day on Hulu, how about you?

Mark: I shudder to imagine what the NBC version of Hawaiian Dick would look like. We’ve spent a lot of time praising the art in these write-ups, and unlike, say, your average superhero comic, the look of Aloha, Hawaiian Dick is a part of the series that I’m not sure can be successfully divorced from the whole. What would be the point? I mean I absolutely hope Moore gets the sweet, sweet payday that would come from a network TV show, but I’m extremely skeptical that the particular charms of Hawaiian Dick can translate beyond the pages of a comic book. And that’s a compliment to the work Moore and his collaborators have put together here.

Now that this run has concluded I still stand by my assertion that the framing device of Mike’s interview with the reporter was a mistake. While the series may be about the difference between the expected story and the experienced one, for me the flaw is that Mike Byrd never became a compelling character and the MacGuffin of Tread Lightly’s missing fingers and mysteriously continuing career was the most interesting thing about him. The MacGuffin upstaging the character meant its handwaving away at the end was the issue’s one sour note. It was the only reason I cared about Mike’s story at all.

And it really was the only sour note, and only slightly sour at that. You already called it out, Patrick, but I my favorite moment of the issue is the two concluding panels of Byrd and Masaki’s stand-off. You included the first already, but for me it’s really the contrast between the KRA-KOWM!!! and the quiet of the very next panel that makes the moment my favorite of the issue.

Krakowm1Krakowm2

I’m sad to see Aloha, Hawaiian Dick come to a close. I’ve gone from cautious optimist to full on fanboy over the course of its five issue run. What Moore and his collaborators have created here is special, and, I’m ready to follow Byrd wherever he goes. Even NBC…for at least two episodes. I can’t promise more than that. One if its a case-of-the-week procedural starring Simon Baker. A man has to have a code.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

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