After delivering two excellent arcs of this series, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips closed up shop for a few months to re-tool the book into a slightly different form. Packing in a few more story pages and some extra back-matter, their crime series revolving around the dirty dealing in an unnamed city in the US returns with a done-in-one tale about Clevon, the bartender at the Undertow, the bar where most of the characters in these books tend to hang out. Truth be told, it's a fairly standard noir tale, but then again, all of them are, but it is done very well. I don't want to talk to much about the plot, since the joy of this book is in the reading. Suffice to say, if you like crime stories, you'll like this book.
A note on the format, in the back, Brubaker notes that they will be featuring articles in the back that will not be reprinted in the trade collections and highlights that this is a reward for the people who buy the monthly format. In this he refers to the comic as a "crime magazine" and that's what Criminal feels like. Not a comic, but an old-school pulp magazine that just happens to feature illustrated tales instead of prose ones.
Jeff Smith, writer-artist of Bone and Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil returns with his first creator-owned work since Bone ended years ago and it starts off with a bit of a fizzle, for me at least. The plot of the book is that our "hero" is an thief that steals artworks by transporting himself to alternate Earths and takes their stuff. Thusly, he's not hunted by the authorities on his own Earth. The only problem is that A. the process for passing between worlds is painful and imperfect and he ends up on the wrong Earth and B. while the police aren't looking for him, someone (thing?) else certainly is. The problem of the book, is that most of the details of the plot I just explained to you are not in the book itself, but from an interview that I had read with Jeff Smith when the book was announced. Coming into this book cold, it would be easy to get confused about both what was going on and why you would want to bother finding out. This is not to say I'm against using a mystery as a hook, but you've got to give a little at the outset to get your reader involved. You know how in every episode of Lost, there's some kind of reveal at the end to keep you hooked? Imagine an episode of Lost without that, just a building mystery with no, however minor, payoff? Mind you, this is only the first issue, but it frustrated me a great deal simply because I'm a huge fan of Smith's previous work and I know he's an excellent story-teller. I'll give this series one more issue before I decide to wait for the first trade for my final verdict.
All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder #9
So the first arc comes to a close...and this issue pretty much sums up the series, it's funny, cringe-inducingly violent and oddly-poignant. While I'm still convinced that Frank Miller is writing this series as a giant "fuck you" to DC Comics, I think he may actually, you know, have a point here instead of just writing over-the-top situations for Batman to growl his way through. Oops, I'm sorry, that's The Goddamn Batman. In this issue TGD Batman had a conversation with Green Lantern and comes up with a clever (and hilarious) way to bring them down to the same level. The first ten pages of this book are laugh-out-loud, until things go south for everyone involved. I won't ruin the details, but suffice to say, this is not a "nice" book. Anyway, everyone pretty much knows what they're getting into with this book and I haven't decided yet whether I like this book as a satire of Batman or as a straight-forward Batman book. I may try to go more in depth on this one once the collection hits.
Anyway, that's the big stuff I got this week, a few quick bullets on other things I got:
- Dan Dare continues to be a very good little sci-fi series from Garth Ennis.
- Marvel's revivial of Damage Conttrol is a lot of fun, but I'm really disappointed that there's only 3 issues to the series. Hopefully the sales will shake the tree for at least a collection fo the old stuff.
- Captain America continues to be excellent, but I'm really hoping that the build-up they've been doing for the last two years get s a realease soon, because it's been a while. I'm also hoping that Skrulls do not appear in the plot-line of this book, but I know my hopes will probably be dashed.
Anyway, that's what I got, talk to you soon.