Set in the year 2048, Solano is a young detective for the New Athens Police Force who gets drawn into a case involving the death of the president and CEO of the Hiyashi robotics company. While investigating the crime scene, Solano is contacted by a company rep who asks that the NAPF step away in order to launch a private, internal investigation, which causes Solano to suspect a cover up. Pursuing the case, Solano and agents of the NAPF tread down on path that threatens to reveal some of Hiyashi’s more sinister secrets.
When it comes to cyberpunk, Old City Blues is somewhat unique. Similar works, such as Ghost in the Shell and Neuromancer usually take place in the futuristic, and dense, urban sprawls of Los Angeles, Japan, or China. These are locations we usually consider to be prime locations for stories set in a future where technology and the Internet have advanced to a point in which our lives are completely controlled by electronics and digital information. Old City Blues, on the other hand, is set in one of the last places on Earth you’d expect to find a technological metropolis: Athens. Author and illustrator Giannis Milonogannis’ (who was born in Greece) choice of setting is welcome.
It is difficult not to compare Old City Blues with Ghost in the Shell. Many of the mech designs are reminiscent of those from the manga and there is one character in particular who looks (and acts) like Major Motoko Kusanagi’s twin. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering that I am a fan of Ghost in the Shell and the graphic novel scratches the itch for similar work. The artwork is solid and while the characters are not particularly exciting visually, the world of Old City Blues is a different story. Milonogannis offers a number of detailed landscapes, both of the technological mega-city of New Athens as well as the blackened remnants of the original city. His use of black, white and grays give the story a noir feel. Mechs make an appearance, and I appreciate the sleek, subtle designs he uses as it is easy for artists to go a little over the top with their giant robots, fitting them with all sort of crazy weapons, thrusters and other needless gadgets.
The story isn’t much to speak of, as it involves certain members of a powerful company using illegal technology to benefit themselves – something we’ve certainly seen before. However, Old City Blues is an enjoyable book for those interested in cyberpunk or are discovering it for the first time. Considering its familiarity, Ghost in the Shell is the perfect companion piece to Old City Blues. The graphic novel is suitable for teens, as the majority of violence is committed against robots, whose limbs and casings are ripped to shreds by gunfire.