Review: Slots #1

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
October 2nd, 2017

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

Review: Slots #1
Comics
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New from Image and Skybound comics comes Slots, the story of a confidence man paying back his dues. Our contributor, Darrryll Robson, takes a look at the first issue to see if he can see through the sleight of hand.

From the imprint that brought you’re the Walking Dead and Invincible comes a more down to earth story of redemption. Slots is set in a modern day Las Vegas and follows an aging confidence man who accepts that he has used up all of his luck. It’s an earthy, complex tale with an intriguing central character. Due to the nature of the central characters past, clearly not everything is as it seems.

Credit: Image/Skybound

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Synopsis

Stanley is a con man. A con man who believes he has run out of luck.

When one of his old flames calls in a marker, he uses the situation to change his life. To get out of the game.

Stanley returns to Las Vegas where he is enrolled as muscle to protect a burlesque house. He digs up old friends and is reunited with family member’s. Not everyone is pleased to see him and his return to town does not go unnoticed.

Stanley’s luck has run out but is he trying one final hustle before disappearing into the night?

Analysis

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Slots is about a confidence trickster and everything that Dan Panosian puts into this comic reinforces this. The story, the art, the layout, it is all designed to mislead the reader and create an atmosphere of mistrust. And it is executed expertly from the very beginning.

The opening page has the hero, Stanley, seated in a diner flirting harmlessly with the waitress. The voice over, obviously Stanley’s, leads the reader to believe that he’s a man on the road to redemption. He admits to wrong doing in the past but he is changing his ways. From this opening Panosian has created an idea of Stanley’s character that as a reader we should admire. He’s generous, friendly and turning honest. As the comic moves into the second page an element of harmless superstition is introduced and you have warmed to his charms, just like the waitress.

However, the final panel on page two instantly changes that opinion of Stanley, as a reader you discover you have been conned in exactly the same way as the waitress. The creator has lied to you.

This has been achieved with simple misdirection’s in both the script and the art. Firstly there is the voice over informing us of Stanley’s good intentions but this is deceiving because the speech comes from a later time in Stanley's life. It’s not an inner monologue taking place in the diner, although this would appear to be the case, instead it forms part of his thought process after he has left the diner, after he has left and not paid his bill.

Credit: Image/Skybound

The Art work also works to misdirect us, the readers. In the first panel the scene is set with Stanley engaging the waitress, she is taken in by him; drawn close to his side to illustrate how comfy they are together. A signifier of trust. In the background we can just see the chef, he is framed in such a way as to distance himself so there is still an element of concern on his face. The second panel shows us the waitress’ point of view. She can see the plate of food Stanley is eating; the coffee still hot and undrunk by his side; his keys are just off centre to the left and his mobile phone to the right. Both of these items are prominent and seem important.

Stanley then fiddles with the salt pot and distracts our attention so that when his phone rings and he gets up to take the call, the reader and the waitress are processing a number of different actions all at the same time. At no point during these panels do we question him leaving the diner. It’s not until the Chef asks if the bill had been paid does the waitress question it, and everything is okay because Stanley left his keys “He’s not going anywhere.” But of course he is. The keys were deliberately made prominent so that the reader would make the same assumption but it was as misleading as the monologue. Stanley has done a number on us all. Within two pages Panosian has laid out the central character and the underlying tone of the comic. Throughout the rest of the comic nothing can be taken at face value. As Chapter one unfolds the single-mindedness of Stanley is portrayed through limited backgrounds and a straight forward focus on Stanley’s actions. He is a determined man on a mission.

This aesthetic changes in chapter two when Stanley reaches Las Vegas. Suddenly the panels become busy and over populated. The reader’s senses take a jolt when contrasted to the bleakness of the desert scenes a few pages earlier. Things are going to get complicated and the start of Chapter 2 enforces this idea. Each chapter introduces a collection of new characters for Stanley to interact with and the most dominate feature of these interactions is that Stanley is in charge in every situation. His general demeanour is of a man down on his luck but this is a deception. He plays all of the characters he meets to get exactly what he wants. Stanley is a hard man to like but the way Panosian has written him makes him an easy man to admire. It all relates back to the end of chapter one: Stanley is a man on a mission.

Credit: Image/Skybound

The coloring throughout Slots is of particular interest.  The color palette is made up of mostly natural, earthy colors but has a streak of red running through it from the very beginning. The red is mostly seen in connection to Stanley; his chequered shirt and beat up car. Red is usually a signify of danger or a warning and perhaps this is another way that Panosian is building Stanley’s character. Through every page and every possible way Panosian is warning us about Stanley, informing the reader that he is a character to watch closely. As a general rule, the central character of a story is the readers way in, the one character that can be relied on but in the pages of Slots the opposite is true. The reader has been told not to believe in him. This adds an interesting dynamic to the comic because by the end of issue one, the reader still does not know who to root for.

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Slots is a narrative misdirection that leaves you on your toes. There is something waiting around the corner but this cleverly crafted comic leads your attention in the wrong direction so that you don’t even know how close to the corner you are, never mind what might be behind it.

Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he remembers his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson

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