A young San Francisco private eye’s missing persons case turns out to be more complex than it originally appears. This fresh paperback collection of a four-part comic from 1999 preserves a smart contemporary noir-ish story that doesn’t overstay its welcome and which pleasingly plays around with genre and location-specific tropes. Well worth your time.
A man returns to Texas after the killing of his brother: trouble ensues. Decent if ever-so-slightly overwritten Lone Star State neo-noir (anthologising issues 1-6). Wears its influences (No Country For Old Men, Taylor Sheridan screenplays etc) on its sleeve, so there’s no real surprises, even if it’s all capably done, and makes Volume Two a worthwhile prospect.
Jacob is tasked with chaperoning a cantankerous comics veteran at a convention: matters soon spiral. Excellent and slightly meta stand-alone story with links to the wider Criminal universe. Plenty to relish, not least in its playing with comic book industry legends, noir tropes, and the flipside of niche fame and success.
Three linked stories: a boxer, a bar worker, a gang lord’s son. Polyperspective genre thrills, plus something of a meditation on the codes and conventions of noir fiction. Plenty to enjoy here, as Brubaker and Phillips continue to both abide by and challenge the limitations and interstices of the genre. Recommended.
A young woman with secrets, fresh to rehab, finds love and with it, a reason to abscond. Smart, melancholic story of crime, addiction, inevitability, and trust. Billed as a Criminal novella, this stand-alone graphic story comes at noir from an unusual – though fitting – angle. Recommended.
A man absconds from military service to get revenge for his younger brother’s death. Issues 6-10 of Criminal are collected here, offering a second punchy (literally and figuratively) noir tale of violence, robbery, sex, and inevitability. Consistently great, and pleasantly uncompromising in its focus on genre thrills and character. Recommended.
A young woman is ostracised via a totalitarian governmental marking scheme: she runs. Smart dystopian one-shot rendered in noir-ish visuals with lettering to match. Gets in, gets out, doesn’t mess except with your head: the kind of project that the likes of Kickstarter/Indiegogo were made for.
Episodes in the New Orleans life of an occasional PI, repo man, and (mostly) functioning alcoholic. The first Lew Griffin mystery works as a prequel to the series, establishing the fictional detective’s bona fides. Something of a meta-novel about crime writing and experience, the book’s a cracker, with character and atmosphere aplenty. Recommended.
Bodies accumulate as the ghost writer of a radio agony column draws on listeners’ letters in their serial killing. 1940s Barcelona-set deadpan absurdist noir that might be a touch impenetrable at first, but which comes with some useful appendices: based on a real-world radio show. Great-looking though, being rendered in lovely monochrome.
A career thief gets in over his head with a security truck heist. Collecting issues 1-5 of Criminal, this first collection tells a sharp downbeat noir tale with a touch of heart and depth to its characters. Plenty to relish here for genre fans, and for readers of the likes of Westlake/Stark’s Parker novels. Recommended.