Category: Crime

A Better Criminal

I’ve been digging Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips since the first issue. The second story arc [Criminal #6] has just started and it looks to be even better than the first! Since it has new characters and a new story, it’s the perfect jumping on point! Tracy Lawless is ex-military and AWOL. Already prone to violence, Lawless is after his brother’s killers and nothing is going to stop him from getting his revenge.
Brubaker and Phillips are responsible for one of the best comics published today and I can’t recommend it strongly enough to mature readers [due to the language and violence — you can probably tell that I edited out some language in one of the panels above].

Criminal #6 rates an A+

Animal Factory Quinella

Ron Decker was on top of the world. Barely old enough to be considered an adult, yet he had it all — money, cars, a woman, and a thriving drug business. Thriving that it until he was busted. Suddenly it was all gone. What didn’t go to his lawyers was taken by his girl and soon enough she was gone too.

Decker ends up in San Quentin where he’s got a shot at getting out in two years if he can stay out of trouble. Trouble is, he’s young and not built for prison. Now he’s surrounded by hardened cons who can’t be trusted. A race war is brewing and Decker realizes that he’s in way over his head. When a powerful older con offers his friendship, Decker isn’t sure how to react. One wrong move and his two year stint will become a death sentence.

Animal Factory was written by real-life ex-con Eddie Bunker who not only wrote several critically acclaimed books [No Beast So Fierce and Education of a Felon, to name two], but also had a career as an actor.[probably best known for his role as Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs].

Interestingly enough, the book was also made into a movie starring Edward Furlong, Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke and Eddie Bunker and directed by Steve Buscemi.

Animal Factory the book rates a B
Animal Factory the movie rates a C+

Black Cherry

Doug TenNapel created the Earthworm Jim video game and is the genius behind Nickelodeon’s Catscratch cartoon series. TenNapel has also written and illustrated five graphic novels. I’ve never played the video game, watched the tv show or read any of his graphic novels. 
That’s about to change. TenNapel has a new graphic novel, Black Cherry, coming out in July.
It’s for mature audiences. If you’re so inclined, you can order it HERE.

You Are Here

Remember when I said that last week I’d ordered two graphic novels and told you how much I enjoyed Last of the Independents by Matt Fraction and Kieron Dwyer? Well, today I’m going to tell you about the second book, You Are Here by Kyle Baker that I enjoyed even more!

Noel Coleman thinks he’s got it made. Coleman is in love with Helen; a beautiful, spiritual and sesitive animal lover. They’ve been together a year and Coleman is ready to settle down and marry her. There’s just one catch. Coleman isn’t the man he’s led Helen to believe he is. Sure, he’s a talented painter… but he’s also criminal who’s been on the run for a year. Hoping to leave his checkered past behind, Coleman goes back to New York City to sell his apartment so he can return to the country and live happily ever after with Helen.

You just know that ain’t happenin’.

Shortly after arriving in New York, Coleman accidently meets up with his old crime partner, Oscar. Coleman and Oscar decide to hit some of their old haunts and Coleman learns that the cops and a homicidal maniac are still looking for him. Helen shows up to surprise Coleman and before you know it they’re both running for their lives. The book ends with a fight to the death and a conclusion that you won’t be expecting!

Kyle Baker’s art is amazing. You Are Here is visually stunning. Baker’s use of color and a storyboard panel design is to complete advantage. The story is full of humor and yet the book never loses it’s pulp feel. It’s a crazy combination that works. It’s not a comedy, but there are comedic moments. It’s not noir by the strictest definition, but it has that undercurrent. The art is cartoony but not in a bigfoot way. And you gotta love it that Robert Mitchum plays the homicidal maniac. I loved every page. You probably would too.

You Are Here rates an A+

Criminally Good

One of the best monthly comics being published today is CRIMINAL by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The first story arc just finished up and is available in a trade paperback. The second arc, Lawless, is getting ready to hit the stands later this month. That’s the cover above for part one.
If you’re not reading Criminal and you enjoy crime stories consider giving it a look. 

Last of the Independents

Last week I ordered two graphic novels that I have been meaning to get for literally years. The first, which I’ll talk about today, is Last of the Independents by Matt Fraction and Kieron Dwyer.I’d meant to purchase Last of the Independents when it was first published back in 2003. I just never got around to it. But when Christopher Mills posted a perfect 6 out of 6 review for it on his Guns in the Gutters blog, my interest was rekindled. Then in this month’s issue of Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips [also worth picking up], Matt Fraction joined Charlie Huston and Greg Rucka [two of my favorite authors] in a discussion of 70’s crime movies. [The issue is worth picking up just to read their thoughts on the subject.] At any rate, Fraction talks about getting his title Last of the Independents from the unused title for “Charley Varrick” [a 70’s crime flick]. So I was sold and ordered Fraction and Dwyer’s graphic novel.

Last of the Independents is Fraction’s love letter to the creators and fans of the movie “Charley Varrick”. Like in the movie, a middle aged guy and his crew knock off a small town bank only to discover it’s mob money that they’ve stolen. There are other similarities, but never does this feel like anything more than a tip of the fedora to a movie, a genre and an era that had an enormous impact on crime fiction fans. Fraction’s story and script are first rate. He drops us in as the bank is being robbed and introduces us to the main characters quickly without wordy exposition. In fact, he often lets Kieron Dwyer’s art tell the tale. Dwyer’s art is perfect for the graphic novel. [I’ve been a fan of his work for some time and hope to someday see a piece by him in my Stallone Gallery.]

One final note, the graphic novel is presented in a “widescreen” format. I usually get annoyed by graphic novels that don’t fit nicely on the book shelf. The publisher, AIT/Planet Lar, must have realized how picky collector’s can be because this graphic novel comes with a vertical slipcover that makes it possible for it to be shelved on the bookcase with other “regular” graphic novels. Kudos for whoever worked out such a creative and simple solution.

Last of the Independents rates an “A”.

Pike Takes the Lead

Robert Crais is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read [and enjoyed] all of his novels… and I’m proud to say that I’ve been with his sigature characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike since their first appearance in The Monkey’s Raincoat. In each previous novel, Cole was always center stage with Pike coming in to back-up his partner. Pike was the tough, no-nonsense hardened gunman. We knew little about him other than he had a strict code of honor, he was loyal and he never backed up.

With The Watchman, Crais turns the tables and gives Joe Pike center stage when he agrees to protect a young heiress who has become the target of a hit squad. Seems she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now the US Government wants her as a witness and a terrorist wants her dead. Pike is more than up to the task of protecting her [especially with Elvis Cole backing him]. The book is fast paced and just as good as the previous novels featuring Cole and Pike. I just wonder if long time readers are going to like the way Crais has filled in some of the blanks about Pike’s life. As for me, I can’t wait for their next “case” — no matter who is at center stage.

Cool "Crime" Cover — 1st in a Series

I’ve always thought this was one of the coolest covers.

Painted by Dan Brereton, it may have seen print elsewhere [Chris Mills would know!] before landing on the seventh issue of Draw! magazine. If it wasn’t painted for a specific story, it cries out for one to be written around it. It has all the right elements for a great crime saga… a tough dame, guns, money, and a rough thug [gotta wonder where that scar came from] on the run [note the hanging handcuff].

Mills Doubles Up

I told you HERE just how excited I was about the release of “Payback – The Director’s Cut.”

Although I’ve got my copy, I won’t get a chance to view it until this weekend [at the earliest]. Still, thanks to Chris Mills’s review, I’m even more excited about the odds of me loving the new version.
Chris and I enjoy a lot of the same movies, authors, and comics. When Chris says, “This new edition does not replace the old one for me, but does improve upon it in most ways, and I’m grateful for it,” I feel that I will be as well. Of course, I’ll let you know for sure once I watch the new version. 

Time for a Little Payback

I can’t wait to get my copy of “Payback – The Director’s Cut” when it goes on sale tomorrow. Although the theatrical version of “Payback” is one of my favorite Mel Gibson movies, I have a feeling that the Director’s Cut will be as well. I know what you’re thinking, how could it not be? It’s the same movie with just a few extra scenes that were cut out when the movie was originally released.

Not so, good buddy!

Paramount and star Mel Gibson originally felt that writer/director Brian [“LA Confidential”] Helgeland’s adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s novel The Hunter was too dark. So they told Helgeland to do some reshoots. He refused. Surprisingly, he was fired and Mel Gibson took over the director’s chair. About a third of the movie was re-shot, new characters were added along with a happy ending.

There were always rumors that Helgeland’s version was better. Tomorrow we’ll be able to decide for ourselves. In the mean time, scored an exclusive interview with Brian Helgeland who talks about what happened to get him fired and why Mel Gibson helped to make it possible for the new version to be released. Click HERE for the interview.

As I said, “Payback” is one of my favorite Mel Gibson movies. My guess is that “Payback – The Director’s Cut” will be as well.

Guns in the Gutters

Chris Mills has started a new blog called Guns in the Gutters. There you’ll find Chris’s reviews of crime comics. Chris has great taste [in other words we like a lot of the same movies, books, comics, etc.], not to mention he wrote one of my personal favorite crime comics, GraveDigger: The Scavengers! Okay, okay, so I mentioned it. Believe me, the comic is more than worth a look.

Crimes of the Century

On the 75th anniversary of the Lindbergh kidnapping, TIME magazine decided to look back at The 25 Most Notorious Crimes of the Past Hundred Years. Using just their list, I decided to rank my top five… starting at the bottom…

5. The Black Dahlia, 1947. Ask most folks who Elizabeth Short was and few will know. Ask them about the Black Dahlia and it’s a different story. How can it be that a murder committed over 60 years ago still grabs our attention?

4. The Murder of Jonbenet Ramsey, 1996. Little Jonbenet was found murdered in her own house the day after Christmas. As the case first unfolded it appeared that her killer would be caught and evidence seemed to point to her own mother. The police botched the investigation, her parents left the state and no one was ever charged or convicted of the murder.

3. The Tate – LaBianca Murders, 1969. I was ten years old at the time of the killings and living half a continent away. Still, I remember the concern in the voices of the adults as they discussed the murders. Charlie Manson’s cult of followers brutally murdered six people and created a climate of fear that was felt across the country.

2. Columbine Massacre, 1999. There had been school shootings prior to Columbine, but none before had such a high casualty rate, nor did they receive as much media coverage. The fact that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 of their classmates, one teacher and wounded 24 others, coupled with security video of them as they moved through the school brought the reality of the murders into our homes. We realized just how much damage two lonely, isolated kids could bring down on a school. It was frightening. And even more so when we contemplated how many lonely isolated kids could be in EACH school in America.

1. The OJ Simpson Case, 1994. Consider this: Time magazine didn’t list the double-murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman as the notorious crime, but instead labeled their choice The OJ Simpson Case! It’s funny that the OJ case even made the list since the trial itself wasn’t a crime, [perhaps a travesty, but not a crime]. It’s even a stranger choice when you consider that OJ was found not guilty! Despite all of that, The OJ Simpson Case is my #1 most notorious crime of the last 100 years. Not only did it involve the murder of two people, but it brought down a legend [OJ], brought into question the integrity of a city’s police force [LA], created doubt about the sanctity of our judicial system, and exposed just how differently two groups of people could view the same evidence. Here we are over a decade later and people still get heated talking about the case.