Friday, January 29, 2010

Crime, crime, everywhere there's crime

Another day, another set of graphic novels. Now's it crime time. I recently picked up two books, Torso and Criminal: Bad Night by modern comic masters, Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker, respectively. These very different books illustrate what is possible in telling crime (true or otherwise) stories with the graphic format.

Torso is relatively old for a graphic novel, written in the late 90s. It takes it time in telling the story of an unsolved serial killer loose in Depression era Cleveland. These murders, terrible and grisly acts which left only a torso for the police to find, place on the watch of the man that took down Capone, Elliot Ness. The book uses experimental visuals and a long exposition to show how a man who could figure out how to deal with corrupt cops had a much harder time dealing with the novel idea of someone who killed frequently for non-material reasons. Having read up a smidge on the case, it seems Bendis sticks to the facts, including a shocking choice Ness makes in an attempt to break the killer. Much of the conclusion is imagined, but the end stays true to the facts.

Criminal: Bad Night is one of Brubaker's ongoing series of stand-alone stories of people who either through bad luck, desperation or bad choices, find themselves on the wrong side of the law. His use of browns, yellows and black hues and the haggard look of his characters gives the stories a grimy feel that is perfectly fitting the feel of the story. The ends of Brubaker's Criminal stories are what you might call twists, but really they are just the tragedies seem almost inevitable once you read them.

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