Criminally Underrated: Six Crime Comics You Haven't Read From the Past 10 Years

Crime comics used to be big business. Titles like Crime Does Not Pay, True Crime Stories and Crime SuspenStories flooded newstands in the 1940s and '50s. They had a flood of popularity that, along with horror comics, could only be staunched by a book on juvenile delinquency and subsequent congressional hearings.

Although titles popped up sporadically over the years, it wasn't until the mid-1990s that crime comics really made a big return, thanks in large part to Frank Miller's Sin City and David Lapham's Stray Bullets. Now, writers like Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets), Brian Michael Bendis (Torso, Powers), Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Incognito), Greg Rucka (Whiteout) and Rick Remender (Last Days of American Crime) have made pulpy, noir-infused books about the seedy criminal underbelly almost as acceptable as superheroes. In fact, one of last year's best graphic novels was Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of Richard Stark's The Hunter, the first in the author's Parker series. This week sees the release of The Man With the Getaway Face, a preview to The Outfit, Cooke's next graphic novel adaptation in the series. 
While many readers have heard of the above titles, there are a bevy of crime comics from the past 10 years that have slipped under the radar. Here are six of the best crime comics of the decade that you probably haven't read. But should.


1. Stagger Lee

When Warren Ellis decides to write a crime comic, he makes sure it's the most disturbing crime comic you'll read. The series follows homicide detective Richard Fell as he is reassigned to Snowtown, a feral city that probably resembles what it would look like if Hell popped up through a hole in the earth and took a massive dump. It's bleak, claustrophobic mood is due in part to Ben Templesmith's atmospheric art that seems more suffocating because he's working in a tight, 16-panel grid. The last issue, #9, was released in 2008, but Ellis recently said he is finishing issue 10 and that the series probably will conclude in 2011.  

6. The Left Bank Gang
If Gotham Central's high concept is simple, then The Left Bank Gang's high concept approaches the complexity of quantum mechanics. Norwegian cartoonist Jason creates a Paris of the 1920s, where Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald are struggling graphic novelists … and anthropomorphic talking dogs (except for Joyce, who's a crow). In order to score some cash, Hemingway comes up with an idea to stage a heist. Comedy and violence ensues. No, it's not your traditional crime comic, but it is wonderfully imaginative and very funny. Especially if you're an lit major.

Other comics to check out this week
  • Absolute Planetary Book 2 The second half of this seminal series by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday finally receives its high-quality collection. 
  • Mome vol. 19 The summer edition of this quarterly anthology features a strip by Gilbert Hernandez.
  • The Playwright First serialized in Australia, this collection by Eddie Campbell and Darren White examines loneliness and sex through the eyes of an aging–you guessed it–playwright.
  • Revolver Matt Kindt of Superspy fame takes a cue from Lost and tells the tale of a man who is able to shift back and forth into a post-apocalyptic alternate reality where he is a different, better man.
  • Sweets #1 Follow the hunt for a serial killer days before Hurricane Katrina is about to hit New Orleans. 

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