Comic Review: Scene of the Crime

Published: 1999
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Michael Lark, Sean Phillips

Vertigo Comics, Image Comics (reprint), 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve been catching up on a lot of Ed Burbaker’s crime comics because I missed a lot of the old ones and because it is the month of Noirvember.

Scene of the Crime was the comic that put him on the map. It led to him working on Gotham Central and also paved the way for his future crime comics like Criminal, Kill Or Be Killed, The Fade Out and Fatale, just to name a few.

This one was highly regarded at the time that it came out and while it is pretty good, it isn’t my favorite of the Brubaker lot.

I can see how he developed his style here and it is a good, solid and competent story but it didn’t capture my attention like The Fade Out or Kill Or Be Killed did.

At its core, this is a noir tale set in contemporary times that sees a young private detective try to locate a girl that’s gone missing. However, he finds her fairly quickly, she’s then killed and we’re then treated to a pretty grandiose mystery story with lots of layers and twists.

This is a really dark tale but fans of Brubaker’s crime work shouldn’t expect anything different. I can’t go into more detail without feeling like I’d spoil too much but this is a pretty decent read with solid art by Brubaker’s top collaborators Michael Lark and Sean Phillips.

Despite this not being my favorite, it is still a good comic miniseries and a solid tale in the crime and noir genres.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Ed Brubaker’s other crime comics.

Comic Review: Kill Or Be Killed

Published: 2016-2018
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Image Comics, 582 Pages

Review:

I have yet to steer myself wrong with Ed Brubaker’s crime comics. And like most of the others, this one has a very strong noir vibe to it.

This seems to have more in common with Fatale than The Fade Out, as it has some supernatural elements in it. Or what one initially presumes is supernatural. In the end, it’s not really clear but that’s kind of what’s cool about this twenty issue comic book series.

First of all, the series’ vigilante “hero” has some serious mental health issues. In fact, the demon he sees could very well be a figment of his imagination.

But there is a demon here and whether or not he’s real kind of doesn’t matter. The demon claims to have saved Dylan from a suicide attempt and in return, tells Dylan that he has to pay his debt by taking the life or a terrible person, once a month. Otherwise, he will become deathly ill and die.

Dylan is obviously resistant to this but ultimately, gets really damn good at it. So in a way, this is kind of like a combination of Death Note and The Punisher. But it still feels wholly original, even if it feels like it was strongly influenced by both of those things.

My only real issue with the series is that the conclusion felt kind of abrupt. As if this was supposed to go on beyond twenty issues but Brubaker decided to move on to other projects. And I can’t really call the ending a satisfying one.

But what really captivated me more than the story, was the creative team. Every time Brubaker works with Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser, we are guaranteed a comic series that works on every level.

While not my favorite comic from this team, it is still a damn good one and my eyes were glued to every page.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other crime comics by Ed Brubaker.

Comic Review: The Fade Out

Published: 2015
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser

Image Comics, 327 Pages

Review:

Several months back, I read the Fatale series by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser. I thought it was cool as hell and I loved the noir meets Lovecraftian vibe. So I wanted to give this a read, as it seemed to be more straight noir without the horror and supernatural elements.

And honestly, I love classic film-noir and wish there were more noir comics in modern times.

This was, hands down, one of the best modern comics I’ve ever read. I’d definitely call this a classic and it just hit all the right notes for me. In fact, overall, I liked it more than the stupendous Fatale.

Brubaker is a master of his craft, especially in regards to the crime genre. The Fade Out is no different but it has an extra layer of awesomeness in that it is a period piece, set in Hollywood in the era of classic film-noir.

This truly is noir but it’s also a dark showbiz story, which usually is a great mix. With Brubaker’s writing talent, he weaved a well structured, multi-layered mystery that just knocks it out of the park.

Additionally, Sean Phillips, Brubaker’s go-to guy crafted some stellar art for this book but his work is always a perfect compliment to Brubaker’s narrative style.

On top of that, Elizabeth Breitweiser’s colors give this even more life and after reading this and the Fatale series, I’d say that she is my favorite colorist that works with Phillips. Honestly, Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser are one of my favorite creative teams, hands down.

The Fade Out is damn near perfect. While it may not appeal to comic book readers who stick to primarily superhero and sci-fi stuff, it is a great example of how the comic book medium can be used outside of what it’s mostly known for by today’s audiences.

This really is a solid callback to the crime comics of yore but even then, it’s better than most of those ever were.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other noir-esque crime comics by Ed Brubaker.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 2

Published: October 11th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

This was a pretty good second half to the original Winter Soldier story. I liked the first half a bit more though. But I think that’s because reading this lacked tension, as I knew that Winter Soldier was actually Bucky and that he’d come around and start to see the light.

That lack of tension is my fault for taking so long to read this story. It’s certainly not Brubaker’s fault and I’m sure this was tense as hell for those that read it for the first time in 2006 without any knowledge of the Winter Soldier character.

I like that Brubaker does spend a good amount of time flashbacking to World War II and the Invaders era. The context was nice and the parallels between Cap and Bucky’s lives then and now was well done.

This story also adds in Falcon and Iron Man, which obviously influenced the MCU films that saw these two characters chime in on Cap’s relationship with Winter Soldier.

Like the previous volume, the art was really good and Brubaker truly benefits from having solid artists on his Captain America books, as they definitely enhance the atmosphere and tone of the plot in the right way.

For Cap fans who haven’t read the Brubaker run, you’re doing yourselves a disservice. Hell, for fans of just the movies, this is definitely worth checking out just to understand the depth of these characters’ bond.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vol. 1

Published: March 1st, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, J.P. Leon

Marvel Comics, 167 Pages

Review:

At the start of Ed Brubaker’s historic Captain America run, I wasn’t paying attention to comics. I found my way back to them around the time that Cap died, a few years into Brubaker’s tenure. So I never got to read the original Winter Soldier story.

I’ve got to say, this pretty much lives up to the hype. However, I’m only speaking as someone that’s read the first part, as the story covers two volumes.

So I don’t know how this will conclude or where it will go in the immediate future but this was a damn fine setup.

This may be the best and the most human Steve Rogers has ever been written. This explores the layers to his character and it does a fantastic job of giving the reader the right context without just relying on them to know Cap’s backstory. Additionally, it also doesn’t just dwell on the past and act as a lengthy modernized recap of those events.

I also love the art. And honestly, it’s the evolution of comic book art that really brought me back to the medium. And one of the books that lured me in was Captain America.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Ed Brubaker’s Captain America run.

Comic Review: X-Men: Messiah Complex

Published: March 29th, 2008
Written by: various
Art by: various

Marvel Comics, 344 Pages

Review:

This follows the major event in X-Men and Avengers lore that was House of M, which itself followed Avengers: Disassembled. While the Scarlet Witch is no longer the focal point here, the effects of what she did in the two previous stories is still felt and the central focus of this large crossover event’s plot. This is also an X-Men-centric story as it doesn’t crossover with Avengers characters or titles this time.

In a way this does a good job of closing out what some call the House of M trilogy but it also sets up an event that is a direct sequel to this called Second Coming.

The story is pretty good but it may be hard to follow for someone who just jumps in or for an old school X-Men fan that will be bombarded with a bunch of newer characters, as this came out when The New X-Men was going strong.

Overall, this is pretty good but the story jumps around a lot and if you don’t binge through it fairly quickly, you’ll probably forget some details. Also, some threads within the larger plot aren’t as great as others.

I didn’t care so much for the New X-Men Team and was more intrigued by what was going on with the main X-Men and the Marauders. Although, I had hoped that Mister Sinister would really get his moment to shine brightly and he’s just sort of there, leading the Marauders, and then he’s out of the story. Although, the twist that sees him taken out of the plot was pretty neat and it’s not something that I saw coming.

If you like classic X-Men, this more modern event will still probably resonate with you. It feels more like a ’90s X-Men event than something made within the last decade or so.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with:  Avengers: Disassembled and House of M.

Comic Review: Winter Soldier: Winter Kills – One-Shot

Published: December 27th, 2006
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Lee Weeks

Marvel Comics, 39 Pages

Review:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything from Marvel’s Civil War era but I though that I’d give this one-shot a chance, as I must have missed it back then. Plus, I like Winter Soldier and I like one-shots.

This takes place while the original Civil War was going on. It focuses on Winter Soldier trying to adjust to life after having been a brainwashed killer for so long. It also takes place on the first Christmas after he was freed from mind control while calling back to his last Christmas before everything went really bad for him, back in World War II with Captain America and Toro by his side.

This is short and sweet but it hit the mark for me.

You get to see the camaraderie between Bucky, Cap, Toro and Namor during the war and how important those relationships were. Then Bucky, now as the Winter Solider, is alone on Christmas, goes on a mission for Nick Fury and gets tied up in a fracas with Hydra, The Patriot, The Vision and the female Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Even though heroes find themselves on different sides of the Civil War divide, they come together out of respect for who Winter Soldier was and because it’s Christmas.

This isn’t as mushy as it sounds though. There is a lot of solid action and a good gritty tone while also critiquing what Christmas and America have become in the decades since Bucky was just a soldier in the 1940s.

Winter Kills is an enjoyable read and helps to build up Winter Soldier as a character. This also came out just before he took over as Captain America for awhile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Marvel’s Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War and the Ed Brubaker run on Captain America.