Sunday, January 31, 2010

IT IS A CRIME: Recommendations for people wanting to read comics about crime

I get told that comics are all super heroes and anime. I get told that a lot. And, I understand that. I get that by watching what becomes made into movies, and by looking at sales figures, and by trying to write concepts and stories that aren’t super heroic for comics that never get published. Comics are not only super heroic, but to deny the ascendancy of super heroes in the medium of comics is foolish.

So, I might, depending upon the response here, through comments or emails, begin a project of giving recommended readings for people who like comics but grew out of or away from super heroes. Today I am giving recommendations for four authors, because, at least in crime comics, it is not nearly so much about the art, as it is the story, and when both artist and writer are good, Crime stories in comics can be great.

Paul Grist

The first author is also an artist, and he creates a comic, irregularly but often enough to have a total of six volumes collected called KANE. Paul Grist is a creative talent who doesn’t paint or write pretty pictures, he writes and illustrates real ones, despite his use of a highly stylized line and drawings. I find his work to be fully deep, and the art to evoke the darkness of emotions that you only rarely find. I also read and buy JACK STAFF, a work done by Mr. Grist, but of the two brilliant series, I prefer KANE. The series reminds me of the Steven Bochco television police stories like NYPD BLUE and HILL STREET BLUES. And by saying that, I do mean it is good.

Buy Paul Grist’s work KANE

Brian Michael Bendis

Brian Bendis is a big ass talent, perhaps considered the star writer of Marvel comics, and arrived where he did following years writing and honing his story telling, through crime stories. My favorite of his pure crime, not super heroic or spy oriented, is TORSO, which is ably but not beautiful drawn by him. Talented writer Marc Andreyko joined him on project, and when reading it, you might be amazed how powerful the work is, and then move on to read the true story it was inspired by, in Bendis’ hometown of Cleveland. The strength of Bendis is often said to be his ability to write dialogue, but in crime stories, the strength of his dialogue is to create mood. He is an expert with crime stories.

Buy Brian Bendis’ work TORSO

Steven Grant

I consider Steven Grant to be a greatly talented writer who has never received nearly as much credit or praise as he is deserved. He writes everything but his chief genre of excellence is crime. As such there is no one more worthy of a recommendation for work writing in the genre. He made Punisher a gritty fighter of crime, but made him palatable as much as an anti hero can be. He wrote various series such as Damned with artist Mike Zeck, and that was well worth reading, and perhaps someone should consider it as a movie. But Grant’s latest work that tweaked me was 2 GUNS. From publisher BOOM it is able to tell without epic violence or much graphic language a truly criminal tale. If Grant writes it, I will buy it.

Buy Steven Grant’s work 2 GUNS

Ed Brubaker

Ed Brubaker’s work on Sleeper and other works is deserving of praise. But I think he excels when he writes about crime. He did so perfectly on Daredevil following Bendis, who both moved the character from super heroic to costumed CRIME fighter, and his work on Gotham Central, as well. He seethed crime. I read a great deal of his work, but it really only hit fever pitch first on Sleeper which is about agents and dark tides of human events, and from there to CRIMINAL. His understanding of human darkness is very finely hone.

Buy Ed Brubaker’s work CRIMINAL


kurt wilcken said...

Back in the '80s, Comico (remember Comico?) published a nice little series written by Mike W. Barr called MAZE AGENCY. It was a nice little well-written honest-to-Ellery-Queen whodunnit series, with decent mystery plots and enjoyable chemistry between the two detectives of the series. Oh, and it featured Adam Hughes art, before Adam Hughes became big; which in itself was reason to pick it up.

After Comico imploded, INNOVATION briefly picked the title up, but it was never quite the same.

Real mystery stories are difficult to do in a comic book; or at least they are rare. MAZE AGENCY is a case where it was done well.

MS TREE by Max Allen Collins and Terry Beatty, is another example, with more of a gritty crime feel to it. I never really followed that one, though, so I can't say much about it.

alex-ness said...

Thanks Kurt. I agree that both Maze and Ms. Tree had style and class. I consider both to be more investigative detective than hard boiled or true crime, say these are more Ellery Queen and the others listed above more like Mickey Spillane, but they are worthy considerations for this!