Saturday, June 7, 2008


You know you have a problem when the delayed release of a comic book totally fucks your shit up. I recently had such an experience when there was no new issue of Criminal in May. It's sad but every Wednesday in May I would come home empty-handed after a trip to The Source (corner of Snelling and Larpenteur in St. Paul), the only exception being when the new Scalped came out. I went in today, a Saturday, expecting disappointment and coming out with a smile on my face and a comic in my sweaty hands.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are two talented sons of bitches after my own dark, nerdy heart. They know noir inside and out and it shows on the page. Brubaker's plotting is not about the flash and cartoonish violence of Frank Miller's Sin City books, but realistic characters caught up in intense, believable and bloody situations. The drawings bring to mind classic movie posters and pulp paperback covers while also managing to be grittier, retain a certain authenticity and edge. A five issue arc (two of which are available now in trade paperback: Coward and Lawless makes a dork like myself imagine that there could be a whole series of movies made with this material, that all one would have to do is just film the comic word for word, page for page and voila you have a 105 minute movie. They say it isn't that simple, but I refuse to believe it. Just imagine:

directed by John Huston

Okay, so maybe zombie John Huston directing is a bit of a stretch but it would still be cool to see movies made out of these books. Brubaker and Phillips do what cool writers like Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, Quentin Tarantino, and Frank Miller have been doing for years: They work within their own world. There is something extremely exciting to me about an author's own universe, the idea that everything they do is connected in some way. A lot of authors beat their characters into the ground by having them going through the same shit book after book (look at Moseley, Connelly, Cornwell, MacDonald, Block, Patterson - pretty much any successful mystery writer) but when you have your own UNIVERSE it doesn't seem to get old. When a character from Pelecanos's Shoe Dog shows up nearly a decade later in his Hell to Pay it makes you smile, you say to yourself, "So Shoe Dog was not really a stand-alone, it was all part of a greater work. Hell, EVERYTHING is all one story, it's like some TV show where every book is simply a different season."

That is how Criminal works. Yeah, I'd be happy with Lawless having his own entire series because he's such a badass, but having him occasionally show up in other things is much more effective, makes you intrigued by him all the more. Like Omar Little from The Wire: Yeah, Omar having his own show would have been fucking cool, but by just having him pop up here and there, he was that much more special, tha much more exciting to see. It wasn't like you turned on the TV and said, "What's Omar up to this week." Instead you'd be watching and suddenly it was like, "Oh shit! It's Omar! Fucking Awesome!"
Now we're all over the place so let me get focused again...what were we talking about? Criminal and how cool a comic it is. That's right. So the other thing to bear in mind about this series is that the issues MATTER. Yeah, like most comics you could be a douche and just wait for the trades to come out so you can get them at Barnes & Noble and not wade through chubby ginger kids at the comic store, but then you're missing out on the articles! Every issue Brubaker talks about some cool new DVD or book or whatever the fuck at the end of the issue (this week he discussed having a talk with the immortal JASON STARR!!!) along with a contributing writer of undoubted awesomeness (Patton Oswalt did one a couple issues ago) throwing up an essay, usually on a favorite movie. This month, either coincidentally or on purpose, the article was about the late, great Sydney Pollack's The Yakuza. Funny thing is, I was thinking about writing a post about this film myself, seeing how it is the director's most hard-boiled effort, but decided against it after reading the article seeing how he lays it all out there for you. I couldn't have said it better myself.

So in conclusion, if you claim to like noir and have not picked up an issue of Criminal yet, you are a poseur. Next month starts a new five issue cycle and I urge you, thirty-eight pointed behind your right ear urge, to grab a copy. First week of the month every month (except for May, the fucking assholes).

1 comment:

CrimeNerd said...

Okay, so I lied. There apparently was no issue for July. But here's hoping in August...