It was a dark and stormy night, and I was stranded on a dusty road, somewhere between despair and loneliness. I needed answers and I needed them fast, so I did what every good detective does and headed to my local comic book shop. I went looking for trouble, but she was already there, waiting for me. Oh yeah – Bad Night – the fourth in the Criminal series.
I’d heard the names Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips before. Who hadn’t? Brubaker was a player, all right. He had an alibi for every crime. The word was he’d killed off Captain America and brought Bucky back from the dead. He was a high roller, and there was no doubt about that. Only a fool would bet on him not pulling it off. This Phillips guy was just as tough. He had form longer than my arm, which was pretty damn long. There was Batman, JLA and Hellblazer. The cat could draw. So I opened the pages and liked what I saw. It was dark. It was gloomy. It made Humphrey Bogart look like Justin Lee Collins.
And it was tough, too. If you thought Grand Theft Auto, The Wire and The Shield were hard-hitting and relentless, then think again. They’re all pussycats compared to this little caper. This Brubaker guy takes an ordinary tale and makes it extra ordinary. This book has more twists than a rollercoaster. Every page had another revelation.
It started out easily enough, with an ordinary Joe, called Jacob Kurtz, who was about to have – as the title of the book suggests – one seriously bad night. You want to talk bad nights? Yeah, we’ve all had them. The ones where you wake up on Brighton beach, unsure of the day, your name or how you got there. But this guy Kurtz has the mother of all bad nights. Every demon in his past is going to come back and haunt him.
He’s in for a bumpy ride and so is the reader. Make no mistake; this little comic puts the ‘graphic’ back into ‘graphic novel’. It’s for grown-ups only. Any little boys still up should go to bed now, because it’s about to get nasty. And say your prayers before you close your eyes – just like momma told you. I sat there thinking, ‘Is noir the new black? Is black the new noir?’ The broads in this book are bad to the bone, and hotter than gas mark 4. The cops are not much better. There’s double-dealing by the truckload. Dixon Of Dock Green, it ain’t.
Was it a homage to the pulp days of the Shadow and Doc Savage? Nope. There are no super heroes in the world of Criminal, just real people in a whole lot of trouble.
It was more like a Spillane or an Elmore Leonard, but turned up to 11. It’s that fatal cocktail of sex, violence and retribution which hits you right between the eyes – and makes you thank God that you’re a man, or a woman, depending on your gender.
Like all the women your mother warned you about – you’ll want more – much more. The good news is that are now four volumes of Criminal to savour. Do what ever you have to to read a copy. Beg, borrow or steal.
Just remember, justice always gets served in the end. You don’t want to end up like one of the characters in Criminal. In fact, you never want to be one of the characters in Criminal. Just sit back and enjoy the rollercoaster ride. If you’re looking for adventure and trouble, then you’ve come to the right place. At least you will get out alive, which is more than can be said for some of the characters.