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.

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from

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Blogger Bubba said...

As I said, there's exciting news for two other titles that don't really fit under the larger headings of crime or pulp.

First is an upcoming anthology mini-series for Mouse Guard, one of the few series that I really like that isn't crime, pulp, or sci-fi. I'm not sure that an anthology would work for Criminal: Sean Phillips' art is quite essential to that world, and I don't think Ed Brubaker would (or should) allow anyone else to write about the core characters. Mouse Guard has such a unique "universe" that it begs for other works AND can support work that is completely unrelated to the main storyline.

If the anthology helps the wait between issues for the next arc, so much the better.

The other news is that IDW will soon begin publishing STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE.

The series wasn't perfect, but it's my favorite incarnation of Trek: I believe it's the best Trek series and, for my money, it's one of the best television series all-time, sci-fi or otherwise.

(Other candidates include My So-Called Life and, increasingly, USA Network's addictive Burn Notice. My tastes in TV are about as eccentric as they can be in comics.)

The series almost had the perfect balance between the episodic drama of TOS and TNG and the serialization of, say, the revamped Battlestar Galactica -- which I think went too far in focusing on the epic saga, to the detriment of the individual episodes which tended (especially toward the end) not to have some sort of resolution of even one minor plotline.

The comic book adaptations have been okay -- not great, but usually not awful, with the obvious exception of the art in WildStorm's N-Vector mini-series -- but a DS9 comic will always be a sentimental draw because Malibu's DS9 series was the first title I ever seriously collected.

It doesn't seem like IDW has handled the Transformers property as well as it could have, but it may have learned from that with other high-profile properties like G.I. Joe and Star Trek. IDW's Star Trek has been well worth reading so far, so I have high hopes for their books covering my favorite series.

5:53 PM  

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