Rendered in monochromatic black and white, Hope is a modern noir, set in 1950s America, but an America where magic and demonic influences have taken hold.
Mallory Hope is a detective and occultist with the usual drinking problem. Behind him are the remains of a broken life, characterised by the loss of his son. Ahead lies an uncertain path of small-time cases and alcohol-fuelled oblivion. Until, that is, he’s contacted to investigate the case of a missing boy: a young movie star who has disappeared without a trace. This strikes a chord with Hope, creating a synergy with his own life.
His investigations take him deep into the seedy underbelly of an alternative Los Angeles, where money flows from the hands of rich but morally bankrupt business tycoons, and into the hands of the criminals and pimps, who can supply any depraved, perverted experience a rich man could crave as long as the money keeps flowing in.
The magic takes a back seat to this world of dark depravation, occasionally helping Hope with some sleight-of-hand distraction techniques but clearly only available to the detective at a surface level. He’s haunted by a demon, who takes the form of a nun in a gas mask, but this is about as far as the fantasy really goes; the rest is good old-fashioned detective legwork that could be lifted straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel.
Hope feels a lot like Hellblazer’s John Constantine: a world-weary, trench-coat clad investigator, picking up pieces of other people’s lives so he doesn’t have to look too closely at his own. This familiarity, along with that of the hard-boiled detective fiction it’s clearly inspired by, leaves it with an air of homage rather than true inventiveness.
The art is evocative and fits the story and setting well: the monochromatic contrast of white and black, brings the story into sharp focus. Broxton illustrates Los Angeles at its grittiest, refining everything from architecture to character with disturbing flair.
The art isn’t quite enough to make the story a classic, though. The plot is strong enough but perhaps over-padded, as Hope struggles to make headway in his case. The magic seems almost peripheral to anything in the story, and while it doesn’t detract from anything in the gritty detective yarn, it leaves you wondering if it was a necessary addition. Still, if you like the idea of a pulpy, seedy detective story with a bit of dark magic thrown in, then this will certainly itch that spot.