Potters-FieldWho is John Doe? Why does he care about the unnamed dead buried in Potter’s Field outside New York City? Where does he come from? What or who is he running from? Be sucked into the work of John Doe and his various associates in Mark Waid’s noir thriller, Potter’s Field, and be prepared not to leave the couch until the last page is turned. John Doe is on a mission to take those numbers representing the unnamed and unknown on the headstones in Potter’s Field and put names beside them. He goes where cops can’t go; people talk to him who won’t talk to the cops; for putting a name to a number, he’s the best there is. When the job is done, and the mystery solved, sometimes people go to jail, sometimes not, but the most important part is that a name is chiseled on the gravestone by John himself. But, maybe, the biggest mystery of them all is who is John Doe? And will we ever find out?

This gripping and fast-paced thriller/mystery/noir is just the beginning of John Doe’s story and once you get hooked you’ll definitely want to know everything you can about John and his mission. Even his associates – cops, detectives, coroners, friends – don’t know his true identity. And, don’t think you can lift his prints off that water bottle he just touched – he doesn’t have any fingerprints! Whether he’s going up against the mob, chasing down some dirty cops or finding out the truth behind that girl’s disappearance many moons ago, the cases are all the same to John: get the name and never give up.

The story by Mark Waid is definitely intriguing and will keep readers engaged until the very end of the cliffhanger-ish ending. Paul Azaceta’s artwork perfectly complements the story. The artwork is gritty, dark, and drawn in a fittingly noir-type style, full of sharp lines and coloring that will make you think it’s dark at all hours in New York City. Bright colors are used sparingly, which works well, because when reds and blues come into play they really grab the reader’s attention. Even though readers will know next to nothing about John Doe by the end, the his good works count for something and readers will be intrigued, not only by the mysteries he solves within the story, but by the mystery that is John Doe’s life.

The story is dark and sad – murder, kidnapping, dirty cops, and death – but nothing is overly descriptive or suggestive, so teens who like murder mysteries more on the serious side will appreciate this throwback to early pulp novels. Greg Rucka, in his introduction, says that if you blink, you’ll miss the clue as to who John Doe is. I definitely blinked, but that just gives me another reason to reread this great pulpy graphic novel.

Potter’s Field
by Mark Waid
Art by Paul Azaceta
ISBN: 9781608860524
Boom! Studios, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 13 and Up

  • Traci

    | She/Her

    Traci has been a graphic novel selector and collections coordinator for kids and teens in libraries in Arizona and Oregon since 2005. She served as the chair of YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, and served as a member of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens blogging team. She previously coordinated the Oregon Young Adult Network’s Graphic Rave list, OYAN’s yearly list of the best graphic reads for teens. Traci is a member of ALA, YALSA, and GNCRT. And, she achieved her greatest dream ever by serving as a judge for the 2019 Eisner Awards.

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