Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bullets: News on Upcoming Releases, &c.

The second issue of Criminal: The Sinners was originally solicited to be released this week, and it is currently delayed only by a couple weeks, to November 18th. The mini-series should still be on track for a December release for issue #3, and a January release for issue #4 -- about which I have more to say, shortly.
  • Update on Incognito "Bookplate" Edition. As I relayed in an update to the previous entry, I confirmed that the limited "bookplate" edition of Incognito will be available to customers outside the UK. For more details, see the blog for Gosh! Comics in London.

  • IGN Review of The Sinners #1. In addition to CBR's excellent review, we have stumbled across a review at IGN, here, for the first issue of Criminal: The Sinners. I frankly agree with its assessment that, compared to earlier arcs, the new story "just doesn't burst out of the gates" with its first issue, but Dan Phillips is right that -- between the story and the extra content -- the series continues to be "the best bang for your buck out of any monthly on the stands."

  • January Solicitations. The next two issues should be out before the end of the year, but after that? Newsarama has published Marvel's January solicitations, which includes Criminal: The Sinners #4. The description reads as follows:
    The Award-Winning crime series continues! Tracy Lawless is getting close to finding the killers he's been searching for... but before he can put all the pieces together, he finds himself in their crosshairs in Chinatown, with enemies all around him. This can't end well, or wouldn't be an issue of Criminal, would it?
    The issue is scheduled for a January 27th release.

  • Cover Art for The Sinners #5. Meanwhile, Sean Phillips is already posting cover art previews for Criminal: The Sinners #5. Along with interior art, presumably of the next issue, in various stages of completion, Sean has posted the sketch, the inks, and the final artwork for the brutal, moody cover -- where things aren't looking good for Tracy Lawless.

  • Criminal Hardcover, at the Printers. The hardcover collection is also on its way, and over on his Twitter page, Ed Brubaker reports that Criminal: The Deluxe Edition is now apparently being published. He's seen a printed copy, "and it looks great."

    Brubaker links to Amazon's listing for the book -- blog readers are welcome to visit Amazon through our links -- and the listing includes the first detailed description I've seen.
    A fantastically-designed and printed book showcasing the Eisner and Harvey Award-Winning crime comics from the creators of Sleeper and Incognito, this oversized, deluxe hardback edition features Criminal books 1 thru 3 - Cowards, Lawless, and The Dead and the Dying. Also features many extras, including a Criminal short story and the never-before-printed five page "movie trailer in comics form" that Brubaker and Phillips created to announce the series online, plus illustrations, selected articles, behind-the-scenes glimpses, painted covers, and much more! Features an introduction by comics legend and Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. Collects Criminal (2006) #1-10 and Criminal (2008) #1-7.
    We reported earlier that it appears the "selected articles" are only ones that Brubaker himself wrote.

    The "Criminal short story" might be "No One Rides for Free" from Liberty Comics #1, or it could the prose story for the very first issue, or the hardcover may well include both.

    And, strictly speaking, the "movie trailer in comics form" was previously published, in Walking Dead #30, which our own Alan David Doane predicts will become "the Holy Grail" for Criminal fans.

    The page also has a publication date of December 2nd, when the book was solicited for November, but I'm not sure that that date reflects when the book will reach the direct market.

  • More Details about DC's Pulp Comics. Finally, in an update to earlier news about a new DC Comics continuity for pulp heroes like Doc Savage and "The" Batman, Dan DiDio provided a few more details to Newsarama: after November's (The) Batman/Doc Savage Special, the universe will be kick-started in March with a mini-series now officially titled First Wave.

    After that, we'll see new ongoing titles for Doc Savage and The Spirit, with a title for The Batman "under consideration." The Spirit monthly will be a genuinely new ongoing title, to be written by Mark Shultz, to replace the series that apparently concluded in August.

    This collection of new titles might not be as interesting as Incognito, but -- as with Marvel's reimagined Noir books for its mainstream superheroes -- a successful pulp line from DC might really help broaden the base for Brubaker and Phillips' creator-owned projects.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bullets: Criminal in Dark Horse Noir, Reviews, Previews, & More.

Our own Alan David Doane highlighted A Criminal Blog at a very new group blog, Comic Book Galaxy's Trouble With Comics. Check it out, for more than just its links to an old-school Batman comic that came with an action figure from Kenner's Super Powers and a track-by-track guide to They Might Be Giants' Flood, which is celebrating its twentieth(!) anniversary.

Of course, we have our own interesting links here...
  • Criminal-related comics out this week. Fans should be on the lookout for two different books that were released this past Wednesday. First up is Liberty Comics #2, which we first mentioned in July. The comic book is published by Image Comics to benefit The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

    Last year's first issue of Liberty Comics featured "No One Rides for Free," a Criminal "emission" featuring Tracy Lawless. While Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Val Staples didn't contribute to this second issue, the issue includes contributions by Dave Gibbons, Paul Pope, and Neil Gaiman with Jim Lee. The proceeds of the book go to a worthy cause, so everyone should consider buying two copies -- one with cover art by Tim Sale, the other with a "Kick Ass" cover by John Romita, Jr.

    Second is Dark Horse Noir -- or, more precisely, Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics by Dark Horse Comics. Those who have been anticipating this book (as we have for some time) might notice that the cover art has changed since the book was first listed. I believe the new cover (on the right) is a dramatic improvement from the plain artwork that we originally saw, as it subtly features an essential "character" to most noir: the city at night.

    The small, relatively inexpensive paperback (MSRP $12.95) is a 120-page, black-and-white anthology of new crime stories by creators such as Brian Azzarello and David Lapham. Most importantly, it features a new CRIMINAL "emission" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It's not clear how (or whether) the short story, "21st Century Noir," fits into the larger Criminal universe. Sean posted preview art of the story across four separate entries back in April -- including the completed artwork for the first full page, here -- but there was no indication of just how dark the story would get in its six brief pages. While last week's first chapter of "The Sinners" was well worth reading, this story delivers a far more brutal punch to the gut, and every Criminal fan should track down this book immediately.

  • Criminal Review and Preview Art. On the subject of Criminal: The Sinners, Comic Book Resources has a five-star review of the first issue. Greg McElhatton notes that there is no real status quo for the title's setting, that the series "has always been a moving target when it comes to its stories; you may stop for a second, but it's forever marching forward and changing things up."

    That's absolutely right: in every story so far, the protagonist's world is irrevocably changed, and so far it's always been for the worst. While characters do find even years of relative stability tending bar or picking pockets, the stories focus on the events that turn their worlds upside-down, often framed in the context of a personal history that makes the tragedy seem inevitable. For those who want to follow the title beyond each self-contained arc, this tendency makes each story absolutely essential.

    What also makes each story essential to the Criminal fan is the interconnectedness of the characters. As Ed Brubaker promised, we're already begging to see in the new arc the "Easter eggs" that reward faithful readers. The first chapter of "The Sinners" found Tracy visiting the Blue Fly Diner, which was a significant locale in "Bad Night." And, the issue reveals that Tracy holds in contempt gamblers who cannot pay back their debts, a very interesting look into his psyche, given his father's motivations in the three stories collected in "The Dead and the Dying."

    Over at his blog, Sean Phillips continues to post preview art of upcoming issues, in various stages of completion. (He also indicates the subject matter of an upcoming essay.) One page -- posted as thumbnails, then pencils, and finally inks -- shows the return of "Genuine Jen" Waters. An old friend of Leo and Tracy, she now works in the city police's Internal Affairs Division and is something of a pariah wherever she goes. She made one brief appearance in the fourth part of "Coward" -- Volume 1, Issue 4, from early 2007 -- where she filled Leo in on the crooked cops who double-crossed him. The Gotham Central fan in me finds her to be one of the more intriguing secondary characters, and I'm quite happy to see her return.

  • Limited "Bookplate" Edition of Incognito. Also at his blog, Sean highlighted the sale of a limited edition of the Incognito trade paperback at a London comic shop called Gosh! The store is taking orders for an exclusive "bookplate" edition, which (the site explains) is the regular trade paperback with an extra feature: toward the front is glued a card signed by both Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.

    I'm not sure whether this book is available only to British customers, but I'm making inquiries and will update this blog entry if and when I find out.

    UPDATE, OCT 22. Both by email and through comments at their blog, Gosh! confirms that U.S. residents will be able to order the bookplate edition of Incognito. They only accept payment in British pounds, but using PayPal or credit card should handle the conversion. Check out the link for contact info.

  • Doc Savage, The Spirit, and The Batman in DC Pulp Comics. Finally, there's a couple other bits of comic news that I might document in the comments for my own sake, but there's one announcement that Incognito fans might find particularly interesting: in a news story at Comic Book Resources, Brian Azzarello reveals that we'll soon see a new pulp universe from DC Comics.

    The writer of 100 Bullets explains that this new universe will have plenty of villains and heroes but no superpowers, and everything kicks off with November's "Batman/Doc Savage Special," to be followed next year by a six-part prestige-format mini-series called "First Wave." After that, there will be new ongoing titles for Doc Savage and The Spirit. Hopefully -- almost presumably, given how well even mediocre Bat-titles sell -- we'll see an ongoing title for "the Batman," the gun-toting crimefighter who is closer to the hero's original pulp roots.

    Read the story for more info on who's in, who's not, and some significant differences between the characters in this setting and those in the main DC continuity.

    As someone who's become increasingly disinterested in that main continuity, and who thinks Doc Savage makes no sense in that continuity, I like this news. As someone who's becoming more interested in classic pulp -- in part because of modern works like Incognito, the Gabriel Hunt books from the editor of Hard Case Crime, and Pixar's enchanting movie Up -- I think this might be the best news out of DC in the last three years or so.
I might have more to say later, about the short story in what will probably be colloquially known as Dark Horse Noir. For now I reiterate that Criminal fans should seek out this trade paperback at their local retailers.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bullets: Criminal's Return, Sleeper's Conclusion, Essays and Reviews.

It's a big week, as Criminal has finally (finally!) returned with a new arc.
  • The Sinners #1 In Stores Now. After a nine-month hiatus, Criminal has returned with new issues, and with a new format where issues will be numbered by mini-series rather than as an ongoing title.

    Issue #1 of Criminal: The Sinners hit stores today. In addition to the main feature -- the second story arc for Tracy Lawless -- the issue features an essay by Michael Stradford on Sam Peckinpah's 1975 crime film, The Killer Elite. The issue also includes excerpts of a lengthy interview that Tom Spurgeon conducted with Ed Brubaker; the two talked with Darwyn Cooke about his adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, and the complete interview (which we mentioned in May) can still be found online at The Comics Reporter.

    It's worth reiterating what we reported last month, that Sean Phillips posted a five-page preview of this first issue of "The Sinners."

  • Sleeper: Season Two. DC has been publishing new trade collections for Sleeper over the summer, and the final collection reached stores last week. The series, a twisted espionage story set in the super-powered WildStorm universe, was Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' first major collaboration, and it remains one of my favorite series all-time.

    The trade paperback collects material from two compilations released in 2005, "A Crooked Line" and "The Long Way Home," but it does so with an MSRP of nearly $8.00 less. The material appears to be mostly unchanged, with slightly better paper quality, different cover pages, and slight revisions to the introduction of "what has come before."

    The most important change is something I mentioned earlier: the inclusion of a prelude story from WildStorm's "Coup D'Etat: Afterword." The six-page story begins this collection and serves as a bridge from the shocking conclusion of the first 12-issue "season" to the next twelve issues in the second and final season.

    Fans of Criminal and Incognito should check out Sleeper if they haven't already.

  • Brubaker Essay on Philip K. Dick. Brubaker and Phillips' monthly work for Icon is uniquely attractive to readers in part because of the additional material that isn't collected in the trades, primarily essays about crime fiction. Boom Studios using a similar draw for their illustrated edition of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    The 24-issue maxi-series is apparently including literally every word of the novel on which Blade Runner was based: as the Boom CEO put it, "It's the full novel, fully illustrated." That sounds precisely like the sort of project for which I would wait for the trade -- a collection that would ultimately fit nicely alongside Steve Niles and Elman Brown's adaptation of I Am Legend -- but the title is drawing monthly readers with additional backmatter: the first three issues include essays by Warren Ellis, Matt Fraction, and Rockne S. O'Bannon, respectively.

    Issue #4 came out last week, and it includes an essay on Philip K. Dick by our own Ed Brubaker. The essay notes that Dick often made corporations the villain, and he did so -- correctly -- for their lack of empathy, but I would add that public bureaucracies can be as cold as their private-sector counterparts, and that their incentive structures are different but often no less imperfect. Though neither writer is my north star by any means, in some respects Heinlein and Dick make a good pair of well-balanced skepticism toward authority in its many guises.

    Brubaker also writes that, with Blade Runner, Hollywood missed the "small details" that make Dick's work so rewarding. If there's anything that makes me wary of any adaptations of Criminal -- even compared to the superhero noir of Sleeper and Incognito -- it's that: it's the details and the careful characterization that allow the book to soar above what could easily become hard-boiled cliche.

  • Christopher Allen Reviews Angel of Death. Finally, I meant to write about this much sooner, but a couple weeks ago, Christopher Allen -- who contributes to the excellent new blog Trouble With Comics at Comic Book Galaxy -- posted a brief review of Ed Brubaker's Angel of Death, now available on DVD.

    Allen writes that he hopes the project leads to bigger and better things for all involved, and that hope may reflect its final place in Brubaker's body of work: it's almost certainly a minor work, but hopefully one that will end up being seen as the prelude of things to come.
I'll link to any interesting reviews of "The Sinners" as I find them, and I'll cover the other crime comics that are soon to be released, including Dark Horse Noir, which features a short-story Criminal "emission."

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