Monday, November 02, 2009

A curiously bifurcated post about a comic book

Coward - a Criminal edition by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

This time round I am talking about one of those comics you can buy in book shops. Coward collects the first five issues of Criminal, the crime-themed strip by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This tells the story of Leo, a pickpocket and general-purpose criminal whose thing is that he is so careful he has never been caught. His extreme caution has led to him being dubbed a coward by his underworld associates, though he is happy if it means that he gets to stay (1) alive and (2) out of jail. The story sees him get caught up in a heist that, amazingly, goes wrong, with ultimately alarming consequences.

It is a good enough story – as atmospheric as the various later Criminal tales, but there is one big problem here. Basically, if Leo is so smart, why does he let himself get caught up in the hare-brained caper that anyone with half a brain can see is going to be a disaster? And why, after that, does he keep making some astonishingly stupid mistakes?

Fans of the Ed Brubaker identikit shady lady character will be pleased to see her make another appearance here. Although maybe in fairness to Mr Brubaker, she seems a bit less like the usual than elsewhere here, suggesting that just maybe he has met more than one woman in his life.

Later: Looking at this again, to write the above, I am really struck by how good this book is. Yes yes, one could say that there are maybe some issues with the plot, but the overall atmosphere and feel of this is very impressive. There is a real darkness to much of what happens here, and a sense of the terrible waste and blighted lives of the people in the criminal world. OK, so maybe that makes this just another crime-doesn't-pay story, but it still has a power, and I recommend it highly.

bifurcated pandas

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