Saturday, January 26, 2019

April Solicitations: A Ricky Lawless One-Shot for Criminal #4 and More.

Image Comics released their April solicitations this week, and we find that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips plan to keep up the monthly pace with Criminal #4.

A couple years back, Phillips discussed the team's work schedule for the official podcast for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.  The plan entails a five-week schedule to produce about ten issues each year; as a result, quite a few months pass before readers encounter a "skip month."

So far, the solicited release dates fit this five-week schedule, which points to a May 29th release date for issue #5, a skip month for June, and a July 3rd release for issue #6.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Due April 24th, issue #4 is described as the second done-in-one, stand-alone story and a return to the Lawless family.
A breathtaking single-issue story finds Ricky Lawless caught in the grip of violence and double cross after a robbery. As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.
We're curious about the time frame of this story -- it presumably occurs after Criminal #1 and obviously occurs before the "Lawless" story arc, but we wonder how this relates to a key event mentioned at the end of issue #1.

(We also wonder how we should refer to these stories going forward.  I wonder how these seemingly unrelated one- and two-issue stories will be grouped and titled for the eventual trade collection, and that question makes me wonder if they're as unrelated as the solicitations suggest.)

It was an oversight on our part, but we haven't yet mentioned Ed Brubaker's January 9th email newsletter, released the same day as Criminal #1.  It includes a two-page preview of Criminal #2...

(We get a specific date for what appears to be the main story -- July, 1997 -- and a flashback indicating that he graduated from high school in the mid-Eighties. And, it appears that one of the central characters, the infamously difficult artist and "old mentor," has been renamed from Archie Lewis to Hal Crane.)

...and we see some process work for this first issue, comparing Sean Phillips' digital inks and the final result with Jacob Phillips' colors.  Brubaker also shares some preliminary designs for the first issue's cover art, with his early idea of having two images share the cover, "connecting the various story threads."

The third and final image from the newsletter, shown below, reminds us especially of the cover layout for Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword, a 2010 anthology series which ran for ten issues and -- as we mentioned earlier -- included a story drawn by Sean Phillips in issue #4.  Between two large panels and two small bubbles, four distinct images were featured on every cover, the largest of which was generally reprinted on an interior page, "virgin" and complete.

(In the cover art for REHSS #4 above, you can see Phillips' Conan, in the bubble on the upper right.)

In both cases, the composite cover is striking, but I'm not sure it "pops" off the shelves as much as a single, bold image would.  The best covers draw your attention away from the comic book's numerous competitors.

For Criminal #1, the composite cover would have probably required a longer, more complex solicitation text, which would have made the story inside less disorienting in its first few pages.  Personally, I really enjoyed the story and I think I prefer the final cover, where the single image of Teeg Lawless -- old, bloodied, and manic -- made me wonder how the first few pages fit into the larger story.  The single-image cover also fits with what we've seen for the next few covers.

Also in the newsletter, Ed Brubaker recommended a few comic books along with a single prose collection from Black Lizard, The Big Book of the Continental Op.

We checked the April solicits for both books, and we found Die #5, from Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans.  The issue is described as the "conclusion," evidently of the first arc, "Fantasy Heartbreaker," and not the overall series.

We couldn't find Brubaker's other recommendation, Cemetery Beach by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, and a quick search through Image's website revealed why:  the book is a seven-issue mini-series, scheduled to wrap up on March 6th.

And, looking through the solicits, we found issue #4 for another series that has our attention, debuting on January 9th alongside both Criminal #1 and the latest issues of Brubaker's two recommended reads.  We'll have more to say about Gunning for Hits very soon, in the upcoming episode of The Undertow Podcast.

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