Dear Ed Brubaker;
Please keep writing comics forever. Sincerely, your friend Costa.
Before he became known for writing Batman titles, Captain America, and even his work for Wildstorm Comics, Ed Brubaker made a lot of amazing crime and noir comics. The best-known of them is the Criminal series, stand-alone arcs available into separated trades.
I’ve been getting a lot into noir/crime/detective/spy stuff this past year, and also being a fan of Brubaker’s work with Cap, I decided to give Criminal a try.
If this first volume is an indication of what the rest of Criminal is like as an overall series, I cannot wait to get the rest of it. A crook gets dragged into a heist against his better judgement, and predicably, it all goes wrong. However, there’s more than one betrayal going on here, with enough human heartbreak in there to make you stop and catch your breath out of sadness or suspense.
Arguably, there are a lot of tropes that make “crime fiction” and “noir” what they are, and it’s hard to deny them when you come across them in fiction. However, what Brubaker does really well in his work is not allow the tropes to bog the story down. It’s a story first, THEN a crime-style piece of fiction. And in the end, that’s what makes Criminal so good, what makes just about everything Brubaker writes so good. The protagonist of “Coward” is both a typical as well as an atypical crime protagonist, which definitely adds not just a “realistic” take on the genre, but also stamps it as definitely above the cut of the rest.
If you’re interested in his early work, or crime/heist stuff in general, definitely check out the various Criminal books. I definitely missed out not getting into this title earlier despite knowing about it, and I’m making up for it now.