Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Criminal #7 Out Today, An Undertow Review of Criminal #1-6, and More!

We've been expecting another email newsletter from Ed Brubaker -- so far, nothing yet -- but we have plenty to cover as the latest issue of Criminal reaches stores today.

Yesterday, Newsarama posted an extensive preview of Criminal #7, a six-page preview supplementing the three pages already seen at Image's website. The preview focuses on four very familiar faces, and we believe this is the first time we've seen the entire group of friends together -- Leo Patterson, Ricky Lawless, Jacob Kurtz, and Jenny (Jen) Waters.

(L-R) Jenny, Leo, Jacob, Ricky
(Tracy continues to be MIA; he's been mentioned in narration, but I don't believe we've seen him at all in this new ongoing series.  I wonder what the surly but capable older brother has been up to.  Since it seems their father's murder led directly to Tracy's less-than-voluntary military enlistment -- and another stay in juvie for Ricky -- we strongly suspect that we see Tracy's return before Teeg's tragic end.)

Much like characters in Stranger Things, also set in the mid-1980's, our quartet has a now-strained Sunday routine playing Dungeons & Dragons; naturally, Jacob is the DM. The title for this chapter of "Cruel Summer" -- "Must Be This Tall to Ride" -- may hint at the transition from childhood to adulthood, from relative innocence to a life of crime.

(It's the same transition Jacob noticed in "Bad Weekend," in a long narration that was entirely reworked for the expanded hardcover release.  In both versions, Jacob took two very different paths to note how Ricky had changed over the years, following in his father's violent footsteps.)

The title also reminds us of the amusement-park sign which was prominently featured in The John Larroquette Show, in the office of the sardonic main character, a recovering alcoholic:

"This is a Dark Ride."

That pretty much sums up Criminal, for that matter, and Robert and I recently reviewed the entire first half of 2019 in an extensive, two-part episode of The Undertow Podcast
  • Episode 33 came out at the beginning of the month, covering the latest news, looking back at the first four issues -- two of which serve as a kind of prologue to "Cruel Summer"; the other two having been collected and expanded in the "Bad Weekend" -- and looking closely at Criminal #5, "Night of the Hunter."
  • Out just last week, Episode 34 provides a similarly in-depth review of Criminal #6, "Song to the Siren," and concludes with recommendations for a couple recent films, both featuring Liam Neeson.
In the news, we covered Deadline's July 17th article announcing Ed Brubaker's deal with Legendary TV Studios adapting his creator-owned comics, and we mentioned the most recent award for those comics, the Best (New) Graphic Album Eisner for My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, announced at the San Diego Comic-Con.

We also took a look ahead, first at Image's October solicitations and then at some very exciting news for 2020.   The former includes a 10/23 release for Criminal #9 as well as advance solicitations for TWO collections, both due on November 13th: the softcover for Junkies, retailing at $13, and the deluxe single-volume hardcover for Kill Or Be Killed, retailing at $50. 

Separately, Bleeding Cool's San Diego Comic-Con coverage made note of a few special projects from IDW, and the most eye-catching announcement was for the four Parker adaptations from the late, great Darwyn Cooke:  the first two books had already been collected in the deluxe Martini Edition, and it's going back to print next year alongside a new "Last Call" Martini Edition for the final two books, with design and additional writing coming from Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker!

 We couldn't conceive of a better way to conclude the "Martini" editions of these instant-classic comics, brilliantly adapting the best novels from the late Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark.

Since then, we have seen that Junkies has been nominated for a 2019 Harvey Award, announced just  last week.  Comprising just six categories, the awards will be announced on October 4th during the New York Comic Con, and My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is one of ten nominees for "Book of the Year."

We also saw the August 7th release of the "Image Firsts" edition of Criminal #1, and we confirmed that the issue -- explicitly designed by Sean Phillips -- is a bare-bones reproduction of the very first issue of the creator owned series, chapter one of "Coward" from late 2006.  The issue omits the bonus essay, a marvelous journal entry written from Gnarly's point of view, and instead the issue includes ad pages for the entire, sprawling Criminal saga.

(We wonder if "Coward" ties into "Cruel Summer" more than we expect:  the current story is leading up quite explicitly to Teeg's murder, and we wonder if we'll see a few more familiar faces on the way.)

Finally, we've also seen a few recent interviews from Ed Brubaker, resulting from his San Diego appearance.  On July 30th, Newsarama posted a text interview, discussing screenwriting and his exclusive deal with Image, how the Lawless family is an effed-up "funhouse mirror reflection" of his own family(!) and how Criminal #8, still due on September 25th, is the approximate midpoint for "Cruel Summer." 

On August 7th, SyFyWire published a three-minute video interview with Brubaker at Comic-Con, about the origins behind "Bad Weekend," namely the great comic-book artists and their tragic histories, including the fatal car accident that is fictionalized in his recent Criminal tale -- a 1956 accident, in which 46-year-old Alex Raymond died while driving Stan Drake's Corvette. 

We see that Cerebus creator Dave Sim began telling the story of "The Strange Death of Alex Raymond" in his self-published book Glamourpuss, from 2008 to 2012.  By 2014, Sim was seeking support through Patreon for the work-in-progress, with plans to publish through IDW, but the latest update I could find is from 2014:  with about 90 pages complete, enough for two volumes, the book may be legally unpublishable because of copyright concerns, but Sim continues working on it, "a strictly creative, non-commercial thing to noodle away at for the rest of my life."

Apparently Sim isn't the only person fascinated by the tragic tale, an extreme example of what Brubaker calls the "tragic limbo" in which great artists have hardly prospered from their much beloved work.

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