Criminal: Coward

Criminal: Coward 

By Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Titan Books)
ISBN 1-84576-610-5

I miss 1953. I wasn’t actually there but if you love comics it was a year of astounding promise. Every conceivable genre of funnybook could be found on US newsstands: Little kids books, war super-heroes, horror, science fiction and especially crime.

Bad guys living – and dying – bad lives were everywhere, and don’t even get me started on movies. Technicolor™ was still expensive so the post-war sensibilities were best captured by gritty, grainy, moody Film Noir.

What has this to do with the book in question? Nothing really except that for the first time since those days there is a genuine resurgence of straight crime thrillers for the comic book crowd. Even acknowledging the standout work of Brian Michael Bendis and David Lapham, there has been precious little straight crime drama in comics of late. But at last creators can once again craft dark, thrilling stories of the other side of society without having to sweeten the comic-fan pot with shadowy organisations or near-superhuman protagonists.

Criminal: Coward follows the bad choices of Leo, a professional bank robber and crime planner as he is lured into masterminding an armoured car heist by a couple of bent cops. Not only is Leo a master of his nefarious art, he is a master of keeping uninvolved and getting away, but this time it doesn’t work out. The thing about bent cops is that you already know they’re untrustworthy, right?

As his world turns to $#!+ around him, the cautious planner must adopt the tactics he dreads and despises if he or any of his loved ones stands any chance of survival. Ed Brubaker provides a masterful modern thriller that is tense, contemplative, action-packed and terminally bloody-soaked and the moody, seductive, understated art of Sean Phillips captures you from panel one, and won’t let go until the bitter end.

Great Stuff! More please! Or I’ll start blathering about the old days again!

© 2007 Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips. All Rights Reserved.