The genre of pulp/crime fiction is in my opinion important to keep alive in comics. Unfortunately there seems to be very few creators other than Ed Brubaker that are tackling the genre today which basically leaves people lying in wait for his next collaboration with Sean Phillips. Well the wait is over as the duo known for such recent hits as Criminal have released their first book from Image comics in the crime fiction/pulp genre. I have to say it’s not the strongest entry in their collaboration to date, but it’s a still a decent comics. It just didn’t grab at you as much as Criminal or Incognito did, still it manages to be entertaining and entice the reader to return for the next issue. I have to wonder why they didn’t release this book under Marvel’s Icon imprint as they’ve done with their previous six volumes (collectively) of afore-mentioned books. Money is likely the reason since the price tag for the book is the same if it were released by Icon, but I'm sure their take home percentage is better. Does this mean the Brubaker is done with his long stint at Marvel and will soon be another creator taking a stab at setting up shop at Image for a while? Only to return to DC five years down the road? At any rate you want to know what the issue is about not my guesses on what the creative team is doing.
Let me start by saying I have no idea what that fucking cover has to do with the book and if this ends up being similar to Turf in any way shape or form then count me out. The story opens with a man burying his godfather of sorts. He was left in charge of the late author’s estate likely because of his father’s friendship when they were both alive. At the funeral Nicholas is approached by a woman claiming to be the grand-daughter of a woman who new his departed godfather and really nothing else happens her worth mentioning. Later, Nicholas strolls around what is now his house and finds an unprinted manuscript that predates anything that our dead author published. Unfortunately, some strange-looking men show up at the house and invite themselves in… with guns. Our mystery woman from before is also in the house and drops a few rounds in one of the men’s chest. And with that we’re left with more questions than answers as Nicolas finds himself in a shitty situation which is usually the case with pulp.
The story is okay. I didn’t love it and actually the more I thought about it and broke it down I had to be realistic and say that it’s not very good. The events with the mystery woman are a bit ridiculous as she just shows up where ever she wants. When at the house she says she was on her way to let him know that the strange men were on their way, but doesn’t say why they were coming over. It’s clear that her character knows why, but she didn’t say; which means she can’t be trusted. Yet we’re more than likely we're going to see Nicholas fall in love with her or forced to trust her and frankly the angle isn’t very interesting due to the way she was introduced and just popped in. It’s an okay story that I’m hoping will have more substance than plot devices, but right now the world rather than the story Brubaker created is more dominating everything else.
The art is impressive, but when is Sean Phillips art not impressive? What is disappointing is the character design for Nicholas. He straight up looks like the main character from either A) Incorruptible B) Near Death or C) Incognito (minus the hair). This is the second Image comic character in recent months to have a white streak in their hair and I don’t think it was a wise choice. Add the fact that there isn’t much difference from Incognito and Nicholas starts to look less like a character and more like stock standard choice from Phillips. He’s way too talented of an artist to be drawing only one style of character like Ed “Big Chin” McGuinness.
This book is a little disappointing since it’s important to the genre as I started off saying; I don’t think that it will turn a lot of heads or really hook new readers onto pulp the way that Criminal did, but fans of the genre will still get new entry in their library. In all honestly this book will probably just sell based on the names of the creators alone (we all know how I feel about that), but thankfully it’s at least worthy of your money for other reasons this time.
Writer: Ed Brubaker Artist: Sean Phillips Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/4/12