Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are gritty. You will need to wash your hands several times after you put their comics down. Wipe your feet several times before you step in. But the truth is you will never wash away the scent and heaviness of the dark alleys and even darker deeds of the human dredge that permeates their books.
This is Noir. With a capital N. As in Nasty. As in never without cash on the dresser. As in this is what Frank Miller’s Sin City would be with a much healthier dose of reality. There are no super gangsters and leather strap bikinis with swords and high tech guns and shots that don’t miss…this is noir. This is Sam Spade rated NC-17. This is pulp fiction. Those little paper books your old man use to hide in the garage with guns and tits and blood. Only with stories that could sell without the art. But why would you. This is comic books for grown ups. This is story.
Fade Out is the tale of a down and out writer who ghosts for a far more talented writer during the Hollywood of the Blacklist era. A writer who wakes up from a drunken stupor to find the new and upcoming starlet dead in the living room. He flees and finds out later that her death was ruled a suicide. Someone had found the body and then hung her to protect the studio. Now will he investigate the death or will he just let it go and in a drunken rage, Fade out.
The Graphic Novel Bad Night follows the stumbling stupidity of a comic strip artist who saves a girl from her abusive boyfriend only to end up being forced to counterfeit an FBI ID. He becomes part of a conspiracy to steal a payoff and then made the fall guy for it. But what no one knows is that there is far more to this poor sad sack than meets the eye. And he may be the most dangerous one of them all.
The Dead and the Dying is another graphic novel set in the 1970’s. A throwback to the black exploitation films. The introduction is actually written by famed director John Singleton of Boys in the Hood fame. This is several different stories told from separate points of view all centering on the robbery of a mobster and his money. It is poignant. It is harsh. It is hopeless. It is brilliant.
Soon, Brubaker will stop writing comics and movies or full length novels will take him from our little world. But he is here now and you need to pick up this work before he becomes one of those writers we all talk about and pretend to have read.