As the EIC who developed such an approach was yours truly, a return to the "special issue" model is flattering; but the execution here is unwieldy due to factors that are both in and out of Imogen's control. Her attempt to anchor the issue with an essay of her own is more attention-grabbing than it really should be, and its content is both too ethereal and too specific to provide sufficient cover for the sprawling spew of articles that follow it.
The real issue with Imogen's essay is that it ultimately reads more like something that permits her to write about several of her favorite films, rather than a real treatise on the shifting visual vocabulary of "true crime" films.
And that's reinforced when Eddie M., always her most fervent backer (leaping at the chance to contribute to the magazine as a "team player" in a way he's never done for any other editor...), reminds us in his swirling survey of noir-era "true crime" pictures that many if not most of these films had their roots in reality carefully hidden away from the public. That leads him into a rather clunky survey of films from the period where he exhumes a true crime origin that doesn't necessarily enlighten anyone about the quality or significance of the eighteen films being covered. (Somewhat predictably, the films he likes personally receive more care in his descriptions than many of the others.)
In his intro to the edition, he projects a nightmare world in the present where we are simply besieged by crime whenever we watch movies, which is tied to a dubious theory about film noir as the agent unlocking a once-necessary but now-lethal loss of innocence. This specious notion flies in the face of falling crime rates even in an age where the media attempts to manipulate us with lurid coverage of violent acts in a way that makes it seem as though it's unsafe to leave one's home. And it also misses the fact that this past summer brought us two films that became box office catnip with barely a trace of "true crime" within them--that strange two-headed monster called BARBENHEIMER. (Of course, these films "aren't noir"--but, then, that's the point: man--and woman--do not live or die by noir alone.)
The valiant supporting cast--John Wranovics (ROGER TOUHY, GANGSTER), Vance McLaughlin (true crime origins of NIGHT OF THE HUNTER's Harry Powell), Rachel Walther (DOG DAY AFTERNOON), Danilo Castro (looking at various recent examples of "cold case noir")--hit their marks in their variable ways, providing solid if unspectacular burrowings into a diffuse range of "true crime" tableaux.
Wranovics is much more at home with gangster material than any of the other subjects that he's covered in the e-zine over the years, so his is easily the liveliest read of the bunch; Walther, who was coolly inspired in the previous issue (Welles' THE TRIAL), is a good bit more rambling here, but that may be due to the fact that she's embarking on a book-length treatment of this topic, and her need to condense may have loosened the narrative flow here rather than tightened it. McLaughlin's piece is competent but ultimately inconsequential; Castro indulges in more interesting but not-quite-connected theorizing about neo-noir, an area that really does need a lot more work from historians of noir in its "neo" meta-diaspora, but he is just scratching the surface here: a look at the IMDB suggests that there are nearly 800 American neo-noirs with "true crime" hooks, making the topic into something more or less elephantine in size (and possibly shape as well).
This revelation reflects back on Eddie's effort to tie together "true crime in the noir era," and reminds us that this selection is more arbitrary than it is organized around some actual sense of "true crime's" ongoing relationship to "noir" (beyond a few teasing and mostly feeble attempts to do so). That isn't something that hardly anyone wishes to do, of course--it would add too much rigor to a subject matter that thrives/survives on its lack of definition.
More true-crime tidbits have been force-fed into the standard departments of the issue as well, with mixed results. What's most revelatory here is that it demonstrates that Eddie's thumb-on-the-scale template for the e-zine will prevail no matter who is editing it.
Finally, there's the cover--as diffuse and without a center as the issue itself, and Michael Kronenberg's biggest failure in his storied career as the e-zine's designer.
So ultimately there is a generous amount of competence to be found here, but nothing remotely revelatory. Interestingly, Eddie did not tout this edition as the "best issue yet." Perhaps the next edition will have more of the stamp of the new EIC; this one really doesn't give that impression.
Let's get ahead of the curve with a new motto: free Imogen Smith! :-)