EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW: Superheroes tend to get most of the attention in the comic book industry (maybe it’s all those bright red capes), but for 13 years now writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips have been the prolific vanguards of noir storytelling while producing a truly killer stack of bestselling crime comics, including Criminal, Fatale, Kill or Be Killed and The Fade Out.
Brubaker & Phillips make a return to the scene of their earliest crime together with issue No. 5 of their new monthly Criminal series for Image Comics. The issue hits stores this week with the story called “The Night of the Hunter,” and we have an exclusive excerpt below. The Night of the Hunter kicks off the Criminal: Cruel Summer story arc, which will be the longest in the brand’s illustrious history, which dates back to October 2006.
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Instead of chronicling a central, linear story, Criminal has more of a mosaic approach. The stand-alone story arcs about the underworld link together like the suspect photos tacked on an FBI evidence board. The result: Criminal stories inform each other in sneaky ways, the same way its characters inform on each other.
“Criminal tells the interweaving saga of several generations of families tied together by the crimes and murders of the past,” Brubaker explained. “And one of the big events in many of these characters’ pasts, which has been referenced since the very first Criminal story, was the death of Teeg Lawless. Before we even met Teeg, we knew that he had died when his son was a teenager, but other than the identity of his killer, we have never told the rest of that story. It’s just been a ghost haunting the series, as Teeg Lawless has become one of the most popular characters in the comic.”
“Cruel Summer” is the story of the summer of 1988, the final season in the life of Teeg Lawless, but the tale it tells goes beyond his death.
“It’s the biggest and most ambitious Criminal story we’ve ever done,” Brubaker said. “Every issue in this epic story is told from a different character’s POV, and the reader will really have to do some work to fill in the gaps between their versions of events. Our first issue is even told from the POV of a private eye, who might actually be a good guy, which is a first.”
Even the good guys go bad in a big way in a Brubaker universe, at least that was the case the writer engineered the most notable Marvel Comics character debut in decades. In 2005, Brubaker deftly reengineered decades of Marvel mythology to revive Captain America’s long-dead sidekick, Bucky Barnes, with a new persona: the Winter Soldier.
The haunting and emotional epic had elements of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels and The Manchurian Candidate, and much of it was kept intact when Marvel Studios imported it to the big screen in Captain America:The Winter Soldier and other films.
As a result, Winter Soldier is the biggest new character addition to the Marvel Comics pantheon in this century and also the biggest since Deadpool in 1991. Brubaker has followed that success with notable writing gigs (Westworld among them) and, with Nicolas Winding Refn, he co-created Amazon’s Too Old to Die Young.
Coming up fast on the horizon for Brubaker & Phillips is Bad Weekend, which delves into the sordid history and self-destructive lore of the comic book industry. The advance word on the hardcover is strong and the subject matter has a meta appeal that will make the July release a magnet for mainstream media coverage at Comic-Con in San Diego that same month.
An excerpt from the Image Comics series Criminal, Issue No. 5…
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