Stephen J. Golds knocked out a great and varied list of 20 graphic novels (“20 Graphic Novels You Must Read Now”). The man’s got good taste in comics, no doubt. Along those lines, check out these 10 (plus) comics that focus on all manner of criminal activities and intentions.
10. Richard Stark’s Parker by Darwyn Cooke
What’s there to say that hasn’t been said before concerning Cooke’s rendition of Richard Stark’s hypercompetent and machinelike career criminal? The gold standard of comic book crime novel adaptations.
9. Pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Sure, Pulp could have used an extra 20 pages to flesh out the story a bit more. And granted, it is less ambitious than the team’s Reckless or Criminal books. However, there is somethingfundamentally satisfying in an old outlaw/ pulp Western writer giving American Nazis their just desserts in 1939 Manhattan.
I would also heartily recommend Hawkman #27. This is an oftforgotten, early collaboration from this team that is an inventive play on Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon by way of the DC Universe.
8. Vigilante: City Lights, Prairie Justice by James Robinson and Tony Salmons
Writer James Robinson goes all in on the James Ellory secret history genre. This miniseries concerns the Golden Age singing cowboy, Greg Saunders’ very personal (and bloody) vendettawith Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, set against the sleazy backdrop of oldHollywood and a nascent Las Vegas.
7. 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
A highly complex and compelling tale that focuses on the mysterious Agent Graves and his gift of an untraceable pistol, with 100 rounds to various wronged parties. What starts out as a series of (seemingly) self-contained revenge tales, blossoms into a full-blown secret history, dating back to the founding of New World.
6. The crime comics of Brian Michael Bendis
The pitter-patter dialog and labyrinthine plots that were a mainstay on his historic run on Daredevil were forged in the 1990’s with such comics as Fire (technically, an espionage tale),
AKA Goldfish, the Goldfish prequel, Jinx and the Elliot Ness centered Torso.
5. The crime comics of Gary Phillips
Los Angeles native and crime fiction writer extraordinaire, Gary Phillips has penned several crime titles over the years. You can’t go wrong with such varied titles as Shot Callerz, The Rinse, Angeltown, Cowboys and Vigilante: Southland.
4. Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty
Max Allan Collins’ take on the Mike Hammer school of PI fiction, well before he landed the gig as Mickey Spillane’sposthumous collaborator. Ms. Tree has been solving cases and doling out rough justice in comics (and in paperback novels through Hard Case Crime) since 1982.
3. Codeflesh by Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard
The down and dirty tale of Cameron Daltrey , L.A. bail bondsman who specializes in bringing in criminals of the superpowered variety. Think Jackie Brown/ Rum Punch with bloody knuckles, spandex and capes.
2. The crime comics of Don McGregor
Don McGregor crafted some great crime comics back in the 1980’s. Detectives Inc. and Nathaniel Dusk (miniseries 1 and 2) were action packed and simultaneously self-reflective and thought-provoking. These two books sported some fantastic artwork from frequent McGregor collaborators, Gene Colan and Marshall Rogers.
1. The Blacksad series Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Yes, the private investigator John Blacksad is a feline. But don’t let that fact put you off. These anthropomorphic noir comicsexplore the dark side of the American Dream during the McCarthy fueled paranoia of the 1950’s. Oh and JuanjoGuarnido’s illustrations are absolutely breathtaking.
One for Good Luck-
Sandman Mystery Theatre
Set during the Great Depression, Mystery Theatre focused on the adventures and investigations of the Golden Age Sandman, Wesley Dodds. The gasmask wearing vigilante is compelled through dreams to creep about at night and bring grotesque murderers and killers to justice. Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle penned 70 perfect issues, plus an annual and a crossover with that other Sandman. The complex relationship betweenWesley Dodds and socialite Dian Belmont was the heart and soul of this book.