Saturday, September 05, 2009

Vertigo Crime

In the past several years the crime genre has been prominent in mainstream comics, offering some of the most enjoyable and satisfying stories. This includes Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Criminal series, and Scalped by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra.

My expectations for the Vertigo Crime sub-imprint were high. The first two graphic novels released would be by Brian Azzarello, the writer of the successful crime comic 100 Bullets, and Ian Rankin, the well-known author of the Rebus novels.

But after publishing these first two comics, Vertigo Crime must only seem like a disappointment. Compared to the best crime comic of the year, Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, the Vertigo Crime books fall well short in presentation, and more importantly, in story and art.

Filthy Rich by Azzarello and illustrated by Victor Santos is a confusing, clichéd-ridden, padded crime story. The plot could have been lifted from any poorly written Mickey Spillane-wannabe-novel; Azzarello is a writer capable of better, crisper work. I can only think that that convoluted story was the result of being told to have the story come in at 200 pages when 100 would have worked more effectively.

Ian Rankin's first foray into comics is strong but certainly not of a quality that would make readers forget that he is primarily a crime novelist. The problem I had with Dark Entries, which features the serviceable art of Werther Dell'Edera, is that it's a John Constantine or Hellblazer story presented as a crime comic. If Dark Entries had been written as a crime story, I wouldn't note this issue but what readers get is a story set literally in Hell. I'd like to see Rankin write an original crime comic; he has potential in comics but his first attempt is ordinary and forgettable.

Next from Vertigo Crime will be stories by Jason Starr, Peter Milligan and Christos N. Gage. If those comics are poor, I don't expect the sub-imprint to have a long shelf-life.


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