Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The key is to commit: no matter how dumb or doomed it seems."
"Please don't be dead, Sully. I still want to pull your secrets out, one tooth at a time."
Either of those should give you idea of the flavour of the climb ahead of you. At 200 full-colour pages saturated with former Olympic snowboard medallist's Suzanne Jensen's internal monologue recalling her fall from grace during her ascent of Everest while fleeing one fuck-load of armed and highly trained trouble, it is a dense and intense read well worth your fifteen quid.
Almost all of this takes place during that painful, laborious and desperate crawl during which it is most emphatically impressed upon you how many and severe are the dangers even if you don't have an American black ops faction fixing to fix you once and for all. The more impatient element in me wanted Zan and the story to get a bloody move on but anything swifter would have been doing a disservice to the experience: climbing a mountain like Everest is punishingly and perilously arduous and is going to take page after page after page.
"Perilously arduous"? Just look at all the bodies! I hadn't thought of that: it has never occurred to me how many bodies litter the snowscape, unclaimed, because although climbing a peak that high above sea level is so close to impossible that so few have done it, getting down alive, once exhausted, is much harder still. Carrying down the deceased? Forget it!
This is HIGH CRIMES' premise, its pivotal plot point and - before I forget to allude to it later - will prove a vital resource.
Like LAZARUS' Greg Rucka (steaming with professional jealously during his introduction) I'm in awe with how much already extant knowledge then further research Sebela has not just packed into but utilised to full effect during the uphill struggle of this gruelling graphic novel. Speaking of packed, how many meanings do you imagine a title can hold? Just take a look at those three covers I've selected out of so many more.
Not only does each tell an extensive story in its own right (as do all the others) but they are immaculately composed by artist Ibrahim Moustafa and all reproduced within along with additional promotional design work carefully coordinated with and instigated by Sebela himself. My point is this: if "the key is to commit" then these two have unlocked the motherload. There are no half-measures here.
Haskell Price is a vulture. While in the guise of a guide aiding wealthy explorers to reach summits, he loots the well preserved corpses of those long left behind in the snow. He carefully bags a few items of interest, then severs a hand. Once back in Nepal's Kathmandu he pays a bent police officer to identify the hands' owners by way of finger prints. Price then contacts the deceased's nearest and dearest to demand a fee for retrieving the body itself. It's quite a very steep fee but then it's a very steep climb. And I know from personal experience directly related to Kathmandu that you would pay almost anything to have your loved one's actual body back to bury. Closure, etcetera.
Suzanne Jensen is the business partner Price took under his wing when she fled the fall out of her blood tests. An Olympic snowboarding champion who won multiple medals, she failed a blood test for drugs. Not just performance-enhancing drugs, either. The media went ape-shit, the authorities closed in and demanded her medals back. She ran. Suzanne left it all behind - everything except herself, the drugs, her self-loathing and her addiction. Everything, in essence, that could continue to haunt her: Suzanne left nothing behind. She's a wreck.
Haskell Price scavenges the body of a man called Sullivan Mars. It's just another body, yet another corpse he will identify by its finger prints which will be known only to him and his corrupt cop. Except that if you want to identify finger prints then you have to go online and access a worldwide database. Does "American surveillance" ring any bells with you?
"Remember, Mars went rogue to protect the future from people like us. Let's show him how badly he failed."
His body's still up there and only Price and Jensen knows where it is. Or what is on it. Or what one of them already has: Sullivan Mars' journal.
The one thing I would warn you about is that - unlike many corporate comics' collected editions wherein the story ends so much earlier than you were expecting because of the padding they've played the book out with - HIGH CRIMES is a book of false summits: you'll think you're nearing its apex, its end, only to discover that yet another steep climb lies ahead of you.