*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.
Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.
The Scene of the Crime (Part 1)
Criminal (Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, now published by Image Comics)
I picked up the first trade of Criminal at a Borders Bookstore (RIP), after the temptation of a burning-a-hole-in-my-pocket gift card coupled with the desire to read something new had become too great; I settled on Criminal: Coward. When I got home, I read the first few pages, and I could not put it down. This first trade follows Leo, the man with the plan. Leo is the go-to-guy if you need to plan a heist, but—and this is a big ‘but’—only if he can be sure the job is void of risks. Unfortunately, for Leo, other criminals are more along the lines of thinking that “The rewards outweigh the risks.” After breezing through the first volume, I immediately went to the second trade, Criminal: Lawless, and began picking up the series as floppies from that point on; I was hooked. Here’s the beauty of the Criminal series: each trade follows a different set of characters and different crimes, and you don’t need to read them in any order…although I would suggest you do, as it’s exciting when characters from previous volumes pop up or are mentioned. Thus far, there are seven volumes of Criminal, each worthy of your attention. Volumes three through seven are as follows: Criminal: The Dead and the Dying, Criminal: Bad Night, Criminal: The Sinners, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (a masterpiece of a crime comic and the best of an already great series, btw), and Criminal: Wrong Time, Wrong Place. Brubaker’s writing perfectly displays a deep understanding and love of film noir and the pulps, while Phillips’s flawless character acting and storytelling—both vital components of a crime comic—combined with heavy shadows set the mood and make this series THE starting point for those interested in the genre. A warning: you will most likely become hooked like I have.
*Note: Criminal originally started as an Icon/Marvel series, and there are six trades floating around under this publisher. The creators then switched to Image comics where they published the first six volumes, complete with new trade dress, and released two “specials”—available in regular comic size and magazine size!—with those being collected in the seventh volume.
The Fade Out (Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, published by Image Comics)
One thing I began to figure out years ago, is that despite all the glitz and glamor Hollywood projects on the outside, what it has buried deep on the inside, what it oftentimes tries to sweep under the rug, is something much darker; something troubling. There’s no shortage of deaths, murders, scams, cheats, and abuse in all its myriad forms than when it comes to Hollywood. Brubaker and Phillips draw from that sordid past and craft one of the best Hollywood tales I have ever read. Set in 1948, The Fade Out has it all: a dead starlet who might not have committed suicide, an inconvenient alcohol-induced blackout, a screenwriter with a devastating secret, another screenwriter blacklisted for being a “communist,” a powerful studio mogul and his brutal chief of security, the new starlet, and so much more. Everyone has something to hide, and some are willing to kill to keep their secrets hidden. The Fade Out is a beautiful series in both writing and art as can be expected from these tremendous creators. Haunting and sad with a glimmer of hope—as well as a fair amount of fear and desperation that propels some of the characters—this series is a great follow-up to Criminal or as an equally great starting point for those new to crime comics. Originally a 12-issue series, The Fade Out is available in three trades or a gorgeous hardcover.
*Note: Brubaker has said that, like Criminal, The Fade Out will return with a new story and new characters, with old characters flowing in and out from time to time; I can’t wait.
Gotham Central (Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark and Brian Hurtt, published by DC Comics)
Now, you might be thinking, Enough with the Brubaker, already, and if that is the case, then that tells me you don’t understand just how strong a hold this creator has as one of the top crime comic book writers in the industry—don’t even get me started on his spy/soldier works. But before Criminal and before The Fade Out, Brubaker teamed with spy/international intrigue novelist and comic book creator Greg Rucka on the amazing Gotham Central. Given the popularity of the television franchises NYPD Blue and Law & Order, these creators decided to tell their own police drama, with one writer handling the day shift detectives and the other the night shift detectives. The exceptionally cool thing about this idea is that it takes place in Gotham City, home of the Batman. The even better thing is that Batman rarely even appears in this book, leaving the series to focus on the police and detectives who attempt to stop Gotham criminals and supervillains alike, while shining the light on crooked cops and those attempting to climb to the top with little regard for who they step on. Gotham Central shows what happens behind the scenes of a city plagued by supervillains and how normal men and women try to keep Gotham’s citizens safe. It is also one of the best things DC Comics has ever published, which is saying something.
Southern Bastards (Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, published by Image Comics)
This is a series about crime and college football. It’s a story of legacy, corruption, people reaching their breaking point, and of those who’ve become numb to it all. Did I mention it involves football? A sport I loathe for countless reasons? Even though this series heavily involves a college football team coached by the diabolically wicked Coach Boss, it is a massively addictive read. I’m not going to spoil the first chapter shocker that I in no way saw coming and which left me stunned for days afterward, but I will say that the creators succeed in making one of the vilest characters I have ever read in a comic. The crazy thing is that despite how much you hate this Coach Boss, they at one point manage to get you to sympathize with this monster at least for a moment. Coercion, drugs, violence, revenge, complicity, and cruelty rule Southern Bastards, and because of this we have a handful of characters looking to set things right and the reader desperately wanting to see Coach Boss finally get what’s coming to him; unfortunately, these “good guys” might not be all that willing to work together. This series is already slated to become a television show, so jump in now with the three available trades (a fourth in February 2018), or the lovely hardcover of the first two trades.
Somerset Holmes (Scripted by Bruce Jones, co-plotted by April Campbell, co-plotted and illustrated by Brent Anderson, published by Pacific Comics then Eclipse Comics)
Of course, I had to hit you with one that you’re going to have to do some digging in the bargain bins in order to read, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. When a woman awakens on the side of the road with no idea of where she is or who she is, her life becomes infinitely worse when a helpful doctor she meets is murdered. Shortly after, a disturbing telephone call sends the woman on the run with little more than a mysterious key and her temporary name of Somerset Holmes to aid her on her quest to find her missing identity while avoiding those seeking to do her harm. Holy moly, it has been a while since I read this series and I now need to reread it more than ever. A true gem from the ‘80s and one that is captivating whether you are specifically looking for a crime comic or just want something good to read. Beautiful art that’s indicative of the time with the flat colors I love so much, and an amazing story—I need to give Jones his own section someday—will make Somerset Holmes a comic well worth seeking out whether you buy the six floppies or the possibly more elusive trade.
Trust me, Denizens. I am well aware that I omitted a powerhouse writer/artist from this list, but I figure he will headline when we get to “The Scene of the Crime (Part 2)” at some point this year. Meanwhile, you have PLENTY to keep you busy for a good, long while.
This Week’s Reading List
Doomsday Clock #3 (Written by Geoff Johns, illustrated by Gary Frank, colored by Brad Anderson, lettered by Rob Leigh, back matter design by Amie Brockway-Metcalf, published by DC Comics)
I am 100% in on this Watchmen sequel. One character returns to dish out some revenge, one character betrays another, and the couple that slays together stays together in this, dare I say, fantastic event comic. Trust me, I had my doubts, too, Denizens, but then I read the first issue. Also, the Mime and the Marionette are probably my favorite new villains of the past decade. You need to be reading this.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Southern Bastards #19 (Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics)
Coach Boss continues his rampage and will stop at nothing to get his Running Rebs college football team the win Craw County so desperately wants. Unfortunately, those he’s wronged care less about football and more about getting revenge for past grievances. Releases of this phenomenal crime comic (see “The Scene of the Crime” above) might have been spotty over the past year, but every time I start to think of switching to trades, a new issue comes out that reminds me that enduring the wait for a trade is just too painful of a prospect to consider.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Black Science #34 (Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Matteo Scalera, colored by Moreno Dinisio, published by Image Comics)
Ignore the $4.99 cover and rest comfortably knowing that this concluding chapter is double-sized and every bit worth the increased price tag. Grant McKay and his family are scattered and shattered as the world faces a giant millipede death cult, invading ghosts, a mighty witch, and a betrayal that spans the many worlds of the onion. With doom falling from every direction, it honestly can’t get any worse for our heroes, and all I will say is that the wait for the next chapter is going to be a rough one indeed.
VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!