Hawaiian Dick Vol. I: Byrd of Paradise by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin (An Oxford College Student Review!)
In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Vivian Fu:
Vivian is a freshman at Oxford College of Emory and is aiming to pursue a PhD in psychology. She is from Hsinchu, Taiwan, and she came to the States for education at the age of fourteen. In the future, she wishes to become a family therapist or a clinical psychologist.
Hawaiian Dick Vol. I: Byrd of Paradise is a crime fiction comic that is written by B. Clay Moore and drawn by Steven Griffin. Moore and Griffin tell a story of war-veteran Byrd, who is looking for ways to earn money upon his arrival to live a new life in Hawaii. Byrd gets a job that involves criminal actions, so he calls up Mo, his good partner from war who is now a detective, to help execute this particular business.
Byrd and Mo’s case is to help find something that Bishop Masaki cherishes deeply. Even though Bishop Masaki runs a drug dealership, most people in Hawaii know of and respect him, including the police officers since they have yet to find any evidences of his criminal acts. While having a drink or two to relax, Byrd and Mo also develop a close relationship with Kahami, a waitress who works at the local restaurant. Kahami comes into an important role later in the story. Still learning about the Hawaiian culture, Byrd also discovers the Night Marchers, who are known to be the spirits of the ancient Hawaiian warriors. Byrd learns more about the Night Marchers from Kahami’s aunt, Chan, who is an amateur Kahuna (witch doctor).
My favorite scene in the book is when Byrd asks Kahami for assistance in order to understand the Hawaiian Warriors. This scene reveals Kahami’s character as someone who is generally interested in other people’s lives and as someone who is also a little flirtatious. Kahami is my favorite character in this book because she has a sense of sexiness that adds to the dynamic of the story. The relationship that progresses quickly between Byrd and Kahami also shows the pace of the book. As a crime fiction book, the book is intense and progresses rather quickly. Having a character like Kahami adds color to the scenes — thematically as well as visually.
An important theme in the story is corruption in society. Even though both Byrd and Mo are veterans, it is unexpected to see them both participating in criminal activities for money and friendship. Mo pursues his personal interest when his job as a detective conflicts with helping Byrd. Chan is also corrupt in terms of her relationship with her nieces, since she acts in self-interest. The theme of corruption should allow readers to reflect upon our society. When is self-interest acceptable for us as lawful citizens? How would self-interest differ from one person to another and create conflict?
Even though I am bothered by the corruption that is going on in their society, I find this book intriguing for its mysterious component, which is also why I have been careful to avoid spoilers in this review. I feel confident in saying that there are at least three instances in the story where I was pleasantly surprised. The most important part is that the ending is not as predictable as many crime stories are. If you are a criminal fiction fan like I am, this book is a great fit for you.
Griffin’s art in this book fits well with the story — from the characters to the scenes. The personality of the character is included in the drawing of each character from what they look like and how they dress to their facial expressions and body language. I enjoyed the outfits of all characters, especially those of Byrd, Khami, and Mo. Moreover, the vibrant colors of the art during scenes that are happier shows a clear demonstration of a cheerful atmosphere. On the other hand, scenes with criminal activities are limited with color use — some even presented in only black and white — to create a more intense atmosphere.
If you enjoy reading comics that are centered on anti-heroes you should not miss Hawaiian Dick Vol. I: Byrd of Paradis. I would give this book four-and-a-half stars, with the missing half star for not giving us more background on Byrd’s personal life. We learn a little bit about him and his brother, but I wish I had known more to understand his character better. Overall, I enjoyed the book. It fascinated me, and I could not stop reading it once I started. I had the urge to know what followed immediately. I think Moore and Griffin did a good job collaborating with each other because the story and the art fit so well together.