Trista & Holt issues 1-6
By Andrez Bergen
Review by Ben Kooyman
Andrez Bergen’s latest venture Trista & Holt is an update of the Tristan and Iseult legend. This retelling relocates the action to the 1970s and switches the genders of its protagonists. These first six issues see Trista, niece and heavy of the Cornwall crime family, cross paths with Holt, the mildly dissolute son of the rival Ireland family. Noir and romance hijinks ensue…
Trista & Holt utilises the same visual style Bergen employed on Bullet Gal, combining real-world photographs with images lifted from the pop culture canon assembled together to tell the story. This juxtaposition of recognisable pop culture images and real-world ones leads to a somewhat loose, occasionally haphazard continuity from panel to panel, heightening the sense of the story, both visually and narratively, as a composite work. This mosaic technique accentuates the artifice of what is obviously already artifice, yet the handmade quality of this digital play simultaneously gives the storytelling a tangible, real-world tactility and authenticity. As noted in my Bullet Gal review, the use of recognisable (albeit decontextualised and often obscured) pop culture images also generates fun intertextual correspondences, some deliberate and others likely accidental. Using Angela Lansbury to depict the Cornwall crime family’s matriarch, for example, evokes her villainous matriarchal turn in The Manchurian Candidate, though for other readers it may evoke and consequently subvert her persona as a benevolent detective. Meanwhile, using Paul Newman for depicting Holt conjures Newman’s signature rumpled charm and weathered demeanour for the character. Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is mentioned in Bergen’s notes at the end of issue one as a touchstone for the story, and it’s a fitting one, not only for its adaptation of 40s/50s noir through a 1970s New Hollywood aesthetic but for the shagginess of Altman’s storytelling – its looseness, the way it digresses, meanders, dwells on minutiae – which Trista & Holt replicates. The narrative luxuriates in its digital play and character quirks rather than pushing forward: for example, when Holt’s best friend Brannigan discovers his newly forged connection to Trista, her heartache is conveyed across several pages using big, bold, abstract images. While one page might have sufficed, it would not have been nearly as evocative. There are other nice touches throughout: for example, the use of typeface font for Trista’s narration and handwritten scrawl for Holt’s says much about their differing personalities. Moreover, the aforementioned aesthetic shifts subtly from issue to issue to tonally match plot details: issue four, for instance, much of which is a flashback after a fatal wounding, uses extreme close ups and out of focus images to create a slightly groggy haze. The Tristan and Iseult legend’s got legs. In addition to providing the template for later doomed and/or star-crossed lovers like Lancelot & Guinevere and Romeo & Juliet, it’s hung around for the long haul, inspiring operas by Richard Wagner and films starring James Franco and all manner of art and literature in between. Bergen’s series, currently six issues in, provides an intriguing spin and some new wrinkles on this oft-told tale and fans of the author, especially of Bullet Gal, should get a kick out of it.
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