Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Escape the Cape Part 3 - The Crime

Written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips

You can't talk about crime comics without mentioning the granddaddy of them all: Criminal. This classic series incorporates everything you love about crime stories, and packs it together into a fist of gritty noir.

There's lowlifes and hustlers, gangsters and dope fiends, and of course the obligatory femme fatale.

It's not revolutionary in any way, but rather an all-encompassing love letter to the genre, making meta jokes out of tropes you know all too well.

Stray Bullets
Written and illustrated by David Lapham

While Criminal portrays a semi-organized gangster world, Stray Bullets is, as the title implies, more about messy delinquents. There's drunkards, strippers, goons and general fuck-ups, with several innocent bystanders thrown into the mix.

If you ever checked out the movie At Close Range (and I really hope you did) then you have an idea of what kind of universe Stray Bullets explores.

Since it's produced by a one-man team, it's also a little bit rough around the edges. However, that actually works to its advantage, as it perfectly fits with the grimy characters.

I especially love issue 19, which tells the story of a girl we all once knew. Check it out.

Scarface: Scarred for Life
Written by John Layman and illustrated by Dave Crosland

Who woulda thought that a comic book sequel to the classic 1983 film would be anything else than a belated cash grab? But Scarred for Life is actually way better than it has any right to be, much thanks to the great writing of John Layman.

The story picks up right after the end of the movie, and has Tony Montana survive the huge shoot-out, only to start building up his empire anew. The tone is rather light hearted, and it's actually quite funny at times, with fun nods to the movie.

There's also another comic sequel, titled Scarface: Devil In Disguise, but that does not have the same magic.

The Killer
Written by Matz and illustrated by Luc Jacamon

If you ever wondered what it was like being a hired killer, then look no further. This book almost works like a tutorial, as we get to know a methodical hitman on the job.

It's a very simple story which spends a lot of time having our hero waiting in a window with a rifle. However, the fact that something so simple can become so engaging, is only testament to its greatness.

It does derail after a while, and I would actually recommend just sticking to the first volume. But do check it out!

My Friend Dahmer
Written and illustrated by Derf Backderf

Now we're onto the darker stuff, as this comic tells the true story of what it was like going to school with real-life serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

It's a coming of age story like no other, which tries to explore how such a depraved psychopath came to be. Because even though Dahmer himself is in no way portrayed in a positive manner, neither is anyone else. He's bullied at school, harassed by teachers, and tormented by a mother who is also off her nut.

The comic makes no excuses about anyone's behavior, and at the end of the day there's so many douche-bags in the story, that Dahmer was not the first suspect once people realized there was a killer in their home town.

The comic was also recently adapted to a movie, but that failed to capture any of the surrounding assholery, and made it into a more standard serial killer fare.

Why are you doing this?
Written and illustrated by Jason

Jason is a Norwegian writer with a peculiar minimalist style and a flair for classic noir-horror. He's made a whole bunch of brilliant comics, but after much deliberation, I've come to crown this as my favorite.

It tells the story of a man whose life is so boring that his girlfriend breaks up with him, right before he's entangled into a web of mystery and murder.

It's sad and funny, and surprisingly touching for a comic that makes a point out of not being interesting.

And if you like this one, you should be happy to know that Jason has a whole range of similar comics, most of which are just as good. I especially recommend checking out Emily Says Hello, from his anthology Low Moon.

Come back tomorrow to check out my a bunch of comics that are simply too beautiful to miss.

This is the third article about comic books without superheroes. The other parts can be found here:
Part 3 - The Crime


  1. Hey, thanks for all the new posts, I'm tracking the movies and definitely going to have to visit our comic book shop in Nottingham, cause your recommendations look grear. I really enjoy reading your reviews, and your style of writing. Have you finished your novel, what is it? Greetings to you.

  2. Thanks for all the worm words, and especially thanks for asking about my novel. I'm still hard at work on it, but hope to have it finished and published on amazon some time this summer =)