Bullets: October Solicitation, Incognito Trade Cover, and More.
It continues to be good times for fans of crime comics, and of Brubaker and Phillips' work in particular.
- Solicitation for "The Sinners," Part Two. Marvel's October solicitations were released last week, and among the titles listed is the second installment of "The Sinners," the new story arc for Criminal.
Made men are turning up dead in what appear to be mob-style hits, and since criminals don’t go to the cops for justice, TRACY LAWLESS has been appointed the defacto “sheriff” of the criminal underworld by his boss, Crimelord Sebastian Hyde. But Tracy is the ultimate outsider, and the cons, murderers, and thieves don’t like or trust him any more than the police do.
Sounds like there could be shades of a modern-day Western, mixed with a murder mystery, all with the brutal noir that we've come to expect from Criminal. The 40-page issue is scheduled to be released the Wednesday before Halloween.
- Cover Art for the Incognito Trade. I half expected a solicitation for the trade paperback for Incognito, but it looks like we'll be waiting for that until November at the earliest. In the meantime, Sean Phillips has shown us what is apparently the cover art for the trade collection. The orientation is more traditional than the preliminary image we noted in April, but the art direction is still quite unconventional for a comic book trade collection.
- Incognito Review. We're now beginning to discuss the trade collection, but the monthly installments of Incognito still haven't wrapped up. The penultimate issue was released almost two weeks ago now, and last week Comic Book Resources posted a glowing review of the issue.
The review, which awarded the issue a full five stars, praised in particular the deliberate pace in which the story's larger universe unfolds, which is -- come to think of it -- perhaps the biggest difference between this series and Sleeper. The earlier WildStorm title was set in an established universe, so while there were plenty of surprises for the main characters, the setting itself wasn't a mystery. Here, Brubaker and Phillips have their first real opportunity to create a new super-powered fictional universe, and they take their time unveiling the story's setting. The pulp origins of the Incognito universe are becoming more clear only in hindsight, and only now do we really see the relevance of the issues' additional material, essays by Jess Nevins about classic pulp characters like the Shadow and Fu Manchu.
- Crime Comics: Vertigo Crime. The latest issue of Incognito isn't the only new release worth mentioning for fans of crime comics. Following the one-dollar "After Watchmen" previews that DC Comics continues to offer, DC's Vertigo imprint has begun selling inexpensive previews of its high-profile titles, such as Bill Willingham's Fables. Last week, Vertigo released a one-dollar preview of 100 Bullets. The preview not only features the first full issue of Azzarello and Risso's recently completed series, it also features previews of the first two graphic novels for Vertigo Crime, about which we first reported in February. The first two entries of this upcoming series of smaller, black-and-white hardcovers will apparently be released simultaneously, this August.
- Crime Comics: Parker. From previews of new crime stories, we turn to an adaptation of a classic: as I reported last time, Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter has just been released. My copy of the hardcover arrived last week, and, having finished the book, I cannot recommend the comic more highly.
Even at a glance, the book is obviously a work of craft. Its smaller size would make it a better fit alongside novels rather than graphic novels, and beneath its dust jacket -- which features a blurb from our own Ed Brubaker -- is a traditional hardcover binding that makes it look like it was published from the novel's setting of New York City, 1962.
Within its perfect presentation is a damn near perfect story, a brutal and hard-boiled tale -- conveyed in a sparse fashion that rewards careful reading -- that should appeal to any fan of Criminal or the Hard Case Crime paperback imprint. The Violent World of Parker fansite pointed out a very good review and analysis at Comixology. The review conveys that the comic stands as its own work while remaining quite faithful to the original novel -- which is still in my daunting stack of books to-read. The review nails the comic's monochrome blue as "handpainted steel," and it highlights the story's tension between romantic love and an almost mechanical professionalism, a tension that's echoed in one of my favorite films, Michael Mann's Heat.
This is apparently the first and only time that the late Donald Westlake (under the pseudonym Richard Stark) allowed the name "Parker" to be used in any adaptation of his work, and it's an adaptation that honors the character, who Brubaker describes in his blurb as "the most iconic criminal ever created."
- Donald Westlake in Hard Case Crime. While I'm on the subject, Parker fans should take note that Donald E. Westlake's final, never-before-published novel Memory will be published next April by the acclaimed paperback imprint Hard Case Crime. Ed Brubaker strongly recommended the imprint, which publishes a new or classic crime novel about once a month. I've already read about two dozen of the fifty-plus books, and I recommend them as very taut and enjoyable weekend reads.
In the meantime, the early Parker books are being released by the University of Chicago Press, which is why The Hunter is waiting for me on my shelf. The third group of three books should be out in August.
- Flashback: Brubaker Essay on Critics. I hadn't seen this before, and I don't know where else to document this, but it appears that, around August of 2001, Ed Brubaker wrote an online essay for the launch of a comic site called The Fourth Rail, whose doors closed in 2006. It's an interesting essay about how otherwise useless critics can become a "necessary evil" in the marketplace, by pointing the audience toward good work and away from garbage.
I wonder if Brubaker's opinion of online comic critics has changed over the last eight years. It's certainly true that good work is getting noticed in terms of sales, but the best-sellers continue to be precisely what you would expect them to be.
- Angel of Death on DVD. Finally Angel of Death, Ed Brubaker's online live-action mini-series starring Zoe Bell, has been repackaged as a full-length movie. It was screened at the San Diego Comic Con this past weekend and was broadcast on Spike TV, but if anybody else missed it like I did, it is now on-sale as a DVD, complete with bonus features.