"Captures the spirit of noir so perfectly it hurts."
"I love the way Bergen creates
his comics... he brings his story to life,
has an eye for the fantastical, and is always
trying to up the last
thing he put out."
Coming Up Comics
"Trista is a breath of fresh air."
Secret Life of Comics
TRISTA & HOLT #4
Trista & Holt #4 by Andrez Bergen picks up where things left off at the end of #3 with the death of mob wheel man Lou Holden. The fall-out continues only this time instead of Alaina Holt planning mayhem against the Cornwall family, it’s Marcella Cornwall who’s calling the shots as she plays the piano, orchestrating a hit against the Holt family enforcer, Moore Holt. Trista questions the wisdom of Marcella’s recent strike at the Holts but Marcella takes her to task and demands she perform the next hit. Trista is rattled by the idea but Marcella, equal parts Brooke Astor and Ma Barker, is dangerously persuasive, and Trista is loyal to a fault.
Once again, riveting narrative and gorgeous imagery combine to create a comic experience like no other. The story itself is absorbing and the images are fascinating in themselves: from the various evocative versions of the women representing Trista, to alarmingly detailed pictures of guns and weaponry, and vintage docu-photos of downtown urban landscapes and mob funerals. Sometimes the black and white images are crystal clear, others under or overexposed or even blurred as if to illustrate varying shades of emotion, intensity, or even madness; the visual see-sawing between absolute clarity and confusion adds a great deal of depth to the narrative and insight into the psyche of certain characters. For example, at the beginning when Trista and Marcella are discussing recent events involving Marcella’s latest foray into violence, Marcella goes from looking like a genteel matriarch to a slightly blurred and distorted woman about to go on a bloodthirsty rampage. In the final frames of the scene she looks like a disturbed Angela Lansbury—possibly another wink at ‘70’s and ‘80’s T.V. that often surfaces in this series–in #3 we learned Issy’s fave show is CHiPs; the car from Starsky & Hutch figures prominently; other subtle references abound–so this time I’m reminded of Murder, She Wrote. Only instead of solving murders, Marcella is hell-bent on committing them (or having them committed).
The ethereal floral wreath cover image for this issue is appropriate on many levels because funerals figure prominently here, and at the funeral there’s a frisson of attraction between Issy Holt and Trista—doomed romance? Few words are exchanged but once again it’s the juxtaposition of images that says more than words. Here it’s the looks exchanged between Trista and Issy (is it me or does Issy look remarkably like a young Paul Newman?) that alludes to complications, good and bad, ahead for both of them.
There’s a big “if” involved, however. Trista’s never shot a person before and now she’s preparing to go out on her first hit under the mentorship of her confidante, Governal. He warns her constantly that she could be in over her head. She dismisses his concerns but deep down knows he’s right. One thing about Bergen’s heroines that I’ve come across from Mitzi of Bullet Gal to Trista is that even with their beauty, toughness and the confidence they wear like armor, they are not immune to fear, twinges of conscience, fatigue, confusion, getting shot and bleeding profusely. They feel things intensely but never let the gangsters (male or female) around them see them sweat, cry or hesitate. It’s a matter of survival—and pride, perhaps, and it keeps their enemies on edge. In their respective underworlds, these young women are savvy enough to know that image is almost everything, but you need guts and the right gun to back it up.
As we see Trista in one of the final frames wearing a chic coat with a fabulous wide leopard-print collar, we know about (because she tells us) but can’t see her fear and apprehension. She looks like she’s blithely heading out to drinks and dinner at a posh restaurant instead of a gangland hit. She has a job to do and she’ll do it, dire warnings, leaden nerves, scratchy throat and all. Then once again all too soon, the harrowing outcome leaves us hanging as we return to the very beginning of this installment, a la Sunset Boulevard. Trista’s not telling her story from the same place as Joe Gillis, but the extent of the damage on both sides is yet unknown.
Trista & Holt is epic neo-noir: hardcore gangster, dark and Byzantine, with flashes of humor and well-placed pop-culture references that cut through the dim shadows like afternoon sun through the slats of a Venetian blind. Check out Trista & Holt #4 but be careful; it’s seductive and highly addictive.
Trista and Holt is Andrez Bergen’s retelling of the Tristan and Iseult legend from the Middle Ages set sometime in the 1970s. After reading Bullet Gal, the style of the comic feels very familiar, and I’m digging Andrez’s use of noir tropes for the book. This is a summary of the first four issues, albeit without any spoilers.
In an unnamed city sometime in the ‘70s, the Holt and Cornwall crime families are vying for power, and the Holts currently have the upper hand. Issy Holt is the heir to the Holt fortune, and Trista Rivalen is the advisor to Marcela Cornwall, nicknamed “Queenie.” The two families are fighting after a bomb kills two of Cornwall’s men, and throughout the first four issues there is an escalation in the number of murders. While the head of the Holt family appears weak, certain people are pushing Marcella into greater violence, which Trista now finds herself at the center of.
Andrez is a witty writer, especially for people who dig jokes about pop culture: when one character describes staying home to watch the latest episode of his favorite TV show and the reveal is “CHiPs,” I kinda lost it. There are lots of these little references, some of which are right over my head, such as commercial jingles from an Australian soap company. Then of course there’s the visual imagery, which is done in Andrez’s usual pastiche style. Have fun noticing all of the different pictures he uses.
Andrez also likes to pack a great deal of symbolic content into his storylines, which consequently makes them fun to unpack. Most of the allusions to Tristan and Iseult are out there for you to parse, down to the King of Cornwall being changed to Marcella of Cornwall. The two poets who composed the earliest versions of the Tristan and Iseult legend were Thomas of Britain and Béroul. The two characters that die at the beginning of Issue #1 are Thomas and Béroul. What is Andrez trying to tell us with this? By killing the original authors, is it a way to try and set his work apart from theirs? Or is it just a reference for nerds to look up because we all need to read meaning into minutiae?
Still, I worry we might lose sight of the comic if we focus solely on the Tristan and Iseult connection. The escalating war between the Holts and the Cornwalls makes for good reading, and four issues into the book there’s no sign yet of courtly love between our two main characters. This is a crime story, albeit with a hell of a lot of references to medieval literature. Marcella Cornwall is an explicit enthusiast of that literature, which I suspect may be a factor in later issues. I’m curious to see what comes next, in part because I’m waiting for Andrez to subvert our expectations and turn the story into something else. Maybe that’s just a holdover from reading Bullet Gal, though. Let’s wait and see what comes next.
“I’m serious, Trista.”
“I know you are.”
“You might know how to shoot one of the things, but you’ve never used a gun on a person before.”
“Me? I”m hoping I won’t have to.”
Things get shaken up in the latest issue of Trista and Holt as Trista has a job to do… but is she ready for it?
Writer/artist Andrez Bergen kicks off this issue with where it ends, which is a small glimpse into the aftermath of Trista’s night out on the town — it didn’t go that well. The lines that kicks off the story are “Yeah… so this looks bad. Fact I’m bleeding all over the floor gives the game away.” From this point we’re taken to the events leading up to it, which is a very busy day for Trista starting with a meeting with Marcella Cornwall (Patriarch of the Cornwall crime family) — and the meeting doesn’t go well for her either; girl can’t catch a break!
The artwork in this issue is once again black and white and composed of many different pictures, even featuring celebrities. This time Bergen does something even more fun with the backgrounds as he places sheets of music behind some of the panels as Marcella is playing the piano during Trista’s visit with her. Bergen’s work with the panels during this scene is great as he flashes back and forth between the two characters as well as the fingers on the keys of the piano. After a couple of pages of the sheet music being behind the panels, Bergen places some of the music in white overlapping the black shadowed image of Trista, creating a nice interaction with the pages beforehand. It’s clear Bergen likes to experiment with this style of artwork as he works to create unique pages with each and every issue.
Issue #4 of Trista and Holt takes the story to a new level of drama as we’re left with an ending that leaves everything is disarray — will Trista be okay?!
This issue opens big, with Trista shot and bleeding to death. Then, we go back and see what twist of fate led us here. Come to think of it, I think there was an issue of Andrez Bergen’s previous series, Bullet Gal, that unfolded the same way. It’s a great attention-getter, that’s for sure.
After the initial grabber, we see Trista arguing with her Aunt Marcella, head of the Cornwall crime family, the day before. Trista is the only person who can plainly speak her mind to Marcella and tell her when she’s doing something stupid—which she definitely has, having ordered a hit that will have some major backlash, and most likely result in a lot of lost lives. Then, later, we see Trista making a stupid decision of her own, against the urging of her friend and advisor, Governal, proving that some things run in the family.
The more I read of this comic, the more I think that I really should read the original story on which it’s based, Tristan and Iseult. Not that you need to know the original to be able to follow along or appreciate the comic, but there are so many parallels in terms of characters and events, and I’m sure I’m missing out on many of them.
Still, it’s a fun read and an engaging story, whether you’ve read the original or not. If you’re a fan of mob/gangster stories, gritty noir, and '70s throwbacks, you’ll enjoyTrista & Holt.
TRISTA & HOLT #5
"The combination of '40s noir and '70s disco isn’t one you’d think would work, but it does."
“Which left me in that empty bar — a deck of playing cards scattered across the linoleum, amidst cigarette ash, spilled blood, several bullet casings… A gaping maw that led into the deserted 3:00 a.m. street, sirens approaching, and I had a six centimeter hole in my gut.”
That quote right there should be enough to get to you check out issue #5 of Trista and Holt. Just when you think Bergen has shown you all he knows about the noir style of storytelling he shoots out another great line, this issue being packed with quite a few actually.
Writer/artist Andrez Bergen once again creates a fast paced hardboiled story, this time splitting the story pretty evenly between characters Issy and Trista. The quote above relating to one of the other characters of the story… wonder where he is…
Bergen’s approach to the artwork is once again based off of taking various pictures from the media and applying them to the page, keeping everything in a black and white color scheme that plays into the noir feeling of the story even more. A great scene from this issue comes when Trista is describing what had happened with Holt. One page shows the various facial expressions leading up to a knife on the last panel, with the next page composed of broken glass. Connect the dots! What do you think happened?
Issue #5 of Trista and Holt adds another layer of suspense into the fold as the story continues to travel deeper into hardboiled storytelling territory.
Trista & Holt #5 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) begins with Issy Holt and his right-hand man Brangian leaving for Holt wheel-man Lou Holden‘s funeral. There Issy sees Trista for the first time and can’t get her image out of his mind. The magic generated by their very brief first encounter is seen in points of light surrounding Issy who is instantly captivated by her. Trista and Issy are represented by pictures of handsome and lovely individuals with movie-star looks a la Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, et al. Again there’s the mood of a fateful star-crossed future for these two in this intoxicatingly stylish 1970’s noir universe.
In the last issue Trista set out to perform her first hit on the bad-ass Holt family enforcer, Moore. She was ordered to do it by the slightly unbalanced (or is slightly an understatement?) matriarch of the Cornwall family, Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall. The ever-loyal Trista carries out the hit, but Moore’s head is so hard she doesn’t know if her small pistol actually finished the job because he crashed through a window before she could find out. What she does know all too well is that she’s been stabbed—it’s bad– and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
My guess is that Issy will find her at the bar where the hit took place, or else follow a trail of blood to the beautiful woman he met briefly at the funeral and now can’t get out of his mind. Will this jar Issy out of his world-weary ennui? Something tells me yes, but what that means remains to be seen. Will he switch sides in this war between the city’s crime families or will he and Trista try to run away together, leaving their dangerous, eccentric relatives behind?
Things will very likely be more complicated than either of those scenarios. This is noir, after all, in the truest sense of the word, so likely no happy endings here—just an ending. In the meantime, like royalty, these lead characters carry out their responsibilities with sober resolve. Speaking of royalty, this issue features a picture of Queen Elizabeth II representing Issy’s powerful mother, Alaina, and none other than Prince Phillip in tow as Issy’s father, Isidor “Anguish” Holt.
The images Bergen uses to weave this narrative are striking, witty and seductive and the writing mirrors the visual. It’s serious noir that doesn’t take itself too seriously just like the best scenarios and dialogue one might find in the office of Sam Spade late at night or riding out to Greystone Mansion with Philip Marlowe: danger laced with humor; death and deception might be around every corner, but in the meantime, hey—ya gotta live.
In any other 1970’s world Trista and Issy would be living the high life, gracing discos with their glittering presence and speeding from parking lots of stylish establishments in the finest of ‘70’s automobiles. In this world Trista dresses up to carry out a hit on a nasty brute and Issy escapes reality by watching CHiP’s on television. Trista’s latest misadventure will likely force him to face facts, to get outside his fabulous mid-century modern apartment and deal with the consequences of being who he is. In the meantime, Trista’s reality is a fight for survival, surrounded by cigarette ashes and shattered glass.
If you’re already a fan of noir, you’ll be swept away by this series and recognize the savvy neo-noir and pop-culture gems to be discovered in the imagery and narrative, and if you’re new to the genre/mood of noir but curious about its proud tradition in literature (up from its pulp-fiction roots) and film, check this out and you’ll learn something—like why guns don’t always beat knives, and ‘70’s muscle cars still rule.
In addition to the story for Trista & Holt, pay particular attention to the artwork. As I’ve discussed before, it uses creator Andrez Bergen’s signature style, created by taking and manipulating a series of unrelated images and assembling them into a single, cohesive story. That being the case, throughout this comic, you get a number of fun celebrity cameos and other little Easter eggs.
This issue begins with a telegram, inviting Issy Holt, one of our protagonists, to the funeral of his friend, Lou, who was killed a couple of issues back. Lou was an underling, and most of the people there are simply paying obligatory lip service or trying to serve their own ends. Issy is the only one who cares about Lou and his life.
Meanwhile, Trista, our other protagonist, is tracking Moore Holt, the enforcer of the Holt crime family—and finds that maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all.
This seems like a rather short issue, but I guess they’re all that length. Just as we’re getting to the good stuff, the issue is over, and we have to wait until next month to continue which, of course, we will, because we’re anxious to see what happens next. At any rate, Trista & Holt has captured my interest, and Issue #5 is definitely worth reading.
TRISTA & HOLT #6
IF? Commix’s brand new series based on the classic tale of Tristan and Iseult continues in Trista & Holt #6. The series follows the mounting feud of two major crime families, the Holts and the Cornwalls, in the 1970s after a series of grizzly murders on either side shocks the city. When Trista Rivalen, adviser to Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall, is brought in to investigate the deaths she and the young Isidor Holt become entangled in the gang violence sweeping the city. Told from the point of view of both protagonists this series continues to deliver a fresh and stylish take on the well known tale.
In the aftermath of Moore Holt’s assassination in the last issue Trista finds herself fatally wounded by his shiv and grasping onto life as swarms of police officers surround the streets. Escaping into the arms of Isidur the two fall deeply in love in that moment and the time has come for the carefree playboy to become a hero. Although alive, Trista is still in grave danger and Isidur’s rescue may have horrific consequences for them both.
Up to this point Trista & Holt has held solely to it’s concept as a complex crime drama slowly crafting the seedy underbelly of the unnamed city and it’s citizens, but the plot is beginning to delve more into it’s romantic tragedy roots and now things are really going to kick off. I feel this series has been so good so far because it hasn’t directly paralleled the source material and has been able to carve it’s own story, but I have faith that even as the focus shifts towards Trista and Isidor’s romance that it will hold to the crime drama atmosphere.
Mirroring the bleak black and white noir atmosphere of the story is Bergen’s inconsistent, yet consistently great, artwork that meshes together differing styles making every single page a unique treat and a joy to gaze at every panel. Still the artwork remains the most intriguing and engaging aspect of the series.
Overall Trista & Holt #6 marks a change in direction for this great series but maintains everything that made it great in the first place. I’m excited to see where it goes next and how each character will develop with this change. It’s a brilliant and unique series and I hope it can keep it up.
After several issues of dancing around one another, moving in different circles, and catching the occasional fleeting glimpse, our two protagonists have finally come together. And now, one of them lies bleeding to death. Honestly, at this point, we should expect nothing less from Andrez Bergen, creator of the gritty, disco-noir comic,Trista & Holt.
In the last issue, Trista ended up on the wrong side of Moore Holt, uncle to Issy and enforcer for the Holt crime family. Now, Issy, without ever having met her, tries desperately to save Trista’s life—while also falling hopelessly in love with her.
Like in previous issues, there are also a few cameos in this one—famous faces, both past and present, that Bergen sticks in just for fun. I kind of miss the notes that were included at the end of some of the earlier issues, letting us know who to look for, and whether or not our, “Hey, isn’t that…?” moments were on point. Still, in this one, there’s at least one face that you should be able to recognize without prompting.
Issue #6 of Trista & Holt is exciting and well done. If you’ve been keeping up with the series, this is a pretty important issue. And, if you haven’t been keeping up with the series, the most important issue is #1, followed by #2, etc. until you’re caught up.
Trista & Holt #6, the latest in Andrez Bergen’s 1970’s noir series, opens with Trista in trouble, having been stabbed by Issy Holt’s uncle, the hard-headed, hard-charging Moore Holt. Issy has been obsessed with Trista since first seeing her at Holt wheel man Lou Holden’s funeral, and now Issy finds her at death’s door on the floor of Samson’s bar. She knows the connections they share, but Issy doesn’t, and this promises to complicate things tremendously going forward.
Bergen is a master of the tropes and motifs of high noir and Trista & Holt shows how adept is he is at capturing the spirit and tone of ‘70’s neo-noir, placing the saga of Tristan and Iseult in a much more recent time and setting it to a disco beat. Marcella Cornwall, whose crime organization works opposite the Holts, is mostly portrayed by Angela Lansbury circa Murder, She Wrote. Marcella is the one who sent Trista on the dangerous errand to kill Moore Holt in the first place and she’s grown even more demented since last we saw her. While Trista’s level-headed confidante Governal shows concern for Trista’s well-being and knew she might not have been carrying enough fire-power to dispatch Moore once and for all, Marcella believes only that the end justifies the means, taking Trista’s loyalty for granted.
The artwork Bergen chooses to show the crime scene at the bar along with the traumatic aftermath is haunting, and cinematic effects such as stark lighting and varying levels of focus make Trista & Holt a rich visual and narrative experience. It doesn’t hurt that screen idols of the era surface frequently, such as when Paul Newman portrays Issy, adding ‘70’s gloss and glamour to the urban grittiness of the proceedings. There are some significant twists and turns in this issue, and some very striking imagery sets the stage for more to follow as the plot thickens considerably and the tantalizing entanglement between Issy and Trista grows ever more complicated—and dangerous.
“That’s, like, really heavy, man.”
“Tell me ’bout it.”
Dude, like, this whole issue is about this one thing that happened, and, like, stuff gets all sorts of crazy, man. You’re in for, like, a cool story, man.
Writer/artist Andrez Bergen delivers another issue of his series Trista and Holt, this time choosing to focus on a single scene and follow-up with some of the consequences of last issues’ actions. Looking at you, Trista!
Worlds collide in this latest issue as Trista finds herself in a tight spot, having just killed a high level target on the opposing side she suddenly finds herself needing the help of someone whom she wishes to destroy. Bergen keeps a layer of suspense throughout the issue as the reader is left to wonder Trista’s fate from beginning to end. Will she ever get up? Was the glass actually that fancy movie glass that doesn’t hurt?! (Probably not).
The artwork in this issue is once again composed of various clips/images from the web and shows, along with Bergen’s own art. The images are all black and white, which fit well to the stories direct narrative. As Holt finds a wounded Trista, what he does next can change everything – I don’t think his family will be all too happy with him.
A great scene that helps kick off the story shows Trista lying on the ground – the events of last issue haven’t left her in the best condition. Bergen uses a series of images, some clear, others blurry, as she describes what she’s feeling as someone comes to her aid. “Fact is I can barely stand… dizzy… So much pain, bleary eyed, cops and witnesses all about. Force myself to stay conscious. Think of Governal and what he’d say if I kicked the bucket. This strangers… my meal ticket out of here.” – This scene also works to show a vulnerability to Bergen’s characters as he fleshes them out more and more with each passing issue.
The beginning of this issue is where a lot of the story comes from, narrative wise at least, as the remainder takes more of a visual approach to progressing the story – as we see doctors come in and take a look at the body of…. DUN DUN DUN (building suspense so you go out and read the story).
Issue #6 of Trista and Holt complicates things a bit for its characters, but this wild noir ride just keeps getting better.
-- Dan Leicht