Dirk I. Tiede
Paradigm Shift — Part One: Equilibrium
Paradigm Shift — Part Two: Equilibrium

As Kim Thompson, Steven Grant, and others have noted, American comics have long been split between snooty literary art and bottom-drawer super-hero fare. The bread-and-butter genre work that fills most of the market in other mediums is AWOL. As a result, when readers want romance or action (as most of them do) they import it from Japan.

Not that there aren’t creators trying to fill the gap. Take Dirk Tiede’s *Paradigm Shift*. A police procedural/horror amalgam, it’s exactly the sort of professional, entertaining American genre comic that is flying off the shelves in some alternate universe where D.C. and Marvel aren’t run by complete fucking idiots. Tiede assimilates manga visuals — complex layouts, cartoony characters, even stylized hair-dos —with as much grace as any westerner I’ve seen. His craftsmanship is very impressive — the Chicago architecture is painstakingly rendered, and he even uses actual Mandarin calligraphy for some of the dialogue. The book’s action is brisk and engaging, especially in the fight-scene set pieces. And while the plot is predictable enough that even the werewolf surprise isn’t especially surprising, that’s hardly a cardinal sin in this sort of endeavor.

There are a couple of problems. Tiede’s characters are so determinedly likeable that they tip right over into bland —not to mention unbelievable (I mean, these are supposed to be *Chicago* cops, y’know?) Similarly, though the story has a fair amount of blood (including some very nicely-rendered mauling victims) it lacks the moral ambiguity, the sex, and even the seediness one usually expects from police procedurals. Tiede all but apologizes in his notes for a mildly revealing shower scene. It’s kind of nice to see a creator deliberately eschew exploitation. But unfortunately, when you remove the pulp, the form tends to seem a little hollow.

Still, despite the limitations of the story, Tiede’s talent as an illustrator and commercial content has allowed him to do fairly well He’s been running the strips online at dynamanga.com for (he estimates) about1000 readers a day. The self-published collections have moved about 800 copies — not bad considering that he doesn’t really have a distributor. As it turns out, people want to read solid genre fare. Only in American comicdom could this be a revelation.

This review first appeared in the Comics Journal # 285. Dirk Tiede’s comics are online here.