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‘Frank Lee, After Alcatraz’ GN (review)

Written by David Hasteda
Art by Ludovic Chesnot
Published by Titan Comics

 

I have been enjoying HBO’s Winning Time, which has had its fair share of controversy. The real-life figures have disputed the accuracy of the story telling. Winning Time is wildly entertaining, while incredibly cartoonish. However, by the end of the first season, it has found an almost truth in it’s over the top storytelling.

Which brings me to Frank Lee, After Alcatraz. A book that is a labor of love. With the impression that, while it engages in speculative historical fiction, it has respect for the real characters involved. The story was well thought out, clearly researched. While imagining a life after Alcatraz for an escaped felon, it feels true and honest to the place and time.

Frank Lee, along with John and Clarence Anglin, have escaped Alcatraz. The official story is that they were believed to have drowned. This is where we take a detour from history.

Tension is high as the inmates survive and make it to land.

As they split up, Frank Lee meets a husband and wife, having recently lost a son, they help him get a second chance. The Leonetti’s may seem hard to believe, but the story takes it’s time and makes their arrangement with Frank seem believable.

What is less believable where other characters introduced later in the story. Liza is introduced as a love interest to Frank. Her character feels like a plot device that brings trouble to Frank Lee’s door step. She appears as a lost child and never develops beyond that. A former lover of Liza’s, Paul, appears. A story about a man clandestinely getting a second chance gets lost in some melodrama that never quite clicks.

An interesting thread that follows throughout and leads to an exciting final act is a reporter who has been following the escape from the beginning.

Samuel Colson is a reporter who was on the scene when Frank Lee escaped. A chance encounter has him on the trail of Frank Lee. Colson’s ambition and Frank’s desire to stay free clash at the premiere of Clint Eastwood’s Escape from Alcatraz. The whole thing gets really close to being too silly. It doesn’t because we have followed Frank Lee and are wholly invested in his fate.

David Hasteda’s script works best with the characters that had time to develop. The script and Ludovic Chesnot’s art really capture, in the flashback scenes, the grime and claustrophobia that comes from a place like Alcatraz. While I’ve never been imprisoned, I have visited prisons. The Frank Lee that we see here feels real. His desire to be free, his need to have a normal life, and the trauma that informs the paranoia in his new life. This gives us a Frank Lee we want to follow.

The best part about Chesnot’s art is the details of Alcatraz and the Bay Area of the era. It’s lovingly rendered. His work on the final act really feels like you are in the cinema with Clint and Frank Lee.

Despite some flaws that almost derail the story, I would recommend this. A strong story that detours from history, yet feels honest. Honest to Frank Lee; honest to the history of Alcatraz.

 

 

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