Thursday, February 26, 2009

No honor among thieves

I have little trouble keeping up with most genres. Literary fiction is small enough that you don't need to spend a lot of time learning about new releases. A visit to the new section of any bookstore is likely to clue you in regardless. With a little effort online, I feel I can identify what I want to read in science fiction, fantasy and crime. Comic books, or graphic novels if you prefer, are a whole other ball of wax. Whenever I think about picking one up, I head down to the comic shop or the comic section of the library and then I stare at the mass of colors and images. Despite reading a fair piece of them, my eye is untrained in spotting quality. For comics, I really do need a sherpa.

Thankfully, I have one in my friend Matt who put me on to Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillip's Criminal. The story will be familiar to crime fans. A loner thief is recruited to help in a robbery, and not just any robbery, but an inside job pulled by crooked cops. What could possibly go wrong? The story, while good, is not the draw. Instead it is the bleak atmosphere. This is the anti-Ocean's Eleven. Instead of a bunch of happy go lucky wealthy scammers, we have a bunch of desperate people making bad choices because of their prior bad choices. It's not a pretty picture, but it feels realistic. The art is also excellent. The story is set in the modern era, but the muted colors give it a 70s feel that harkens back to the gritty movies of the time.

All on my own I picked up the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier and I wish I hadn't. This one should have been great, set in a 1950s England coming out of the Big Brother years of 1948. Instead it is a jumble of texts, including an essay about Lovecrafts Great Old Ones and a comic story about Virginia Woolf's Orlando, that comprise the Black Dossier> There are all the references that made the earlier books so much fun, but overall it isn't terribly interesting. There is another book coming out soon, maybe that one will be as good as volumes 1 and 2.

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