Success and Termites on the Blue Estate

Viktor Kalvachev is crafting the tightest, complicated crime story you aren’t reading, which is a shame. Because when was the last time you read one of those – in a comic book?

Quick thing: comic fans bemoan the fact that there isn’t more diversity in comic types in America. This country used to be rife with alternate genres, until the Kefauver hearings in 1954 pretty much ended all that. So as we talk about reboots here at ComicBloc, we jumped at the chance to talk about Image’s Blue Estate, and hopefully our readers reboot the diversity of this industry by supporting ‘alternate’ stories to the superhero.

Granted, Kalvachev isn’t telling a story because of all that – he’s doing it because he wants to. His Eastern European upbringing forbade the cultural examination of the fantastic and institutional things we take for granted, instead telling tighter ‘reality-based’ stories. It’s because of all this that he’s ‘fascinated with how real people react with life and the amazing things they do when life presents them with impossible choices’.

Blue Estate also builds off of the long-form  TV drama renaissance we’re currently privileged to live through. This is not your one-note hardboiled detective story, but as Kalvachev comments on: something more analogous to Dexter – complex, with cliffhangers and subplots that all work towards a single concise climax. If you’re noticing other similarities, read closer. He gives just one away: his issue cliffhangers are directly inspired by the way the show ends each episode.

If you spend a significant amount of time invested in complaining about superhero comics ‘pacing themselves for trades’, this is the best counter-argument for why long-form pacing can be a good thing.

So, Blue Estate is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – not Law and Order (If you haven’t seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I’ve just done you another favor). Kalvachev is telling multiple stories that will tie together, he assures me- and most of it a branching narrative from a flashback. It’s something I honestly can’t think I’ve seen out of a comic in the last 10 years: the narratives really do not start to connect until about issue five (on sale today). The first four are world-building. If you spend a significant amount of time invested in complaining about superhero comics ‘pacing themselves for trades’, this is the best counter-argument for why long-form pacing can be a good thing.

Kalvachev brings a host of contributors with him across his related experiences to work under him on his book: Andrew Osborne, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley, Paul Maybury, Marley Zarcone – and other guest contributors. The interesting thing: their background in editorial illustration, video games, and cultural diversity charges the work with subtle humor and layered art nuance missing from most comic work (not that they don’t do comic work too: Rodd Racer, DMZ, 100 Bullets, etc). Kalvachev is directing this like a story from a different media: each creator underneath him brings something different visually, and he paces out their work in such a way to easily highlight the story and point-of-view shifts. Something that would be even more difficult to follow, perhaps, under one artist.

It’s worth pointing out that by having himself act as a central art director, Kalvachev is accomplishing something that Marvel and DC aren’t: he’s using multiple artists to his benefit – not as disruptive ‘fill-in artists’.  The ‘art director’ role allows him to closely dictate and direct changes to each artist, as well as plot and color their work to weave them together – the tonal shifts in artist are reinforced this way to help clarify the story shifts.

The series is also backed up by a very impressive in-world website ( that is kept up-to-date with snapshots from Roy Devine Jr, his Jonah Hill private eye, and twitter accounts for the main characters – crafting a meta-narrative. As an industry that doesn’t do the most with the rich material it has, it’s a worth your attention for how comics COULD be marketed. Kalvachev confesses he’s already seen results from the extra effort put into the website and twitter accounts.

If you take look at everything: the website, the covers (which are gorgeous ILLUSTRATIONS, and I cap that for a reason), the story, the interior art, the collaboration – it’s clear that Kalvachev and his contributors are pouring their heart into it. If pieces don’t work, they rework them until they do. Kalvachev points out the horse from issue 5 as an example. “Not enough of a winner”, he says.

If you’re not clear yet where the story is going, don’t worry – Kalvachev is treating you like an adult. as he puts it: ‘my approach was to give the readers most of the cards and say – imagine what can possibly go wrong with all these guys and try to guess how would they clash at some point’. But don’t worry, this isn’t LOST. He had everything worked out before work started.

I don’t have all the angles figured out with either, and I’m happy.

Dustin Davis

Success and Termites on the Blue Estate