Overview

Noir: A Collection of Crime Stories

Review

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Noir: A Collection of Crime Stories

Credits

  • Words: Ed Brubaker, Brian Azzarello, David Lapham, et. al.
  • Art: Gabriel Ba, Sean Phillips, Fabio Moon, et. al.
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $12.95
  • Release Date: Oct 21, 2009

With crime comics quickly becoming a bona fide phenomenon, it is only natural that the company that published one of the touchstones in the genre would want a piece of the action. Frank Miller’s Sin City is one of the prolific author’s more praised works. It is also one of the books that really helped put Dark Horse on the map. Now 17 years after the seminal noir graphic narrative was launched, Dark Horse brings its fans Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics.

What’s more is that it is an anthology by the publisher of the last great monthly anthology comic. Of course, that comic, Dark Horse Presents, is also where Sin City made its debut. Eventually, the title gave into the ever growing and shelf devouring cape and tights genre. Interestingly enough, with Popgun and Flight garnering a new audience for the format in an expanded form, Dark Horse recently started up an online version of its seminal anthology title.

Noir is worthy of that pedigree in spades. This is the first anthology since Popgun debuted that has a chance of getting both the mainstream and critical attention that Flight has had to itself for years. Its timing couldn’t be better either. With the third volume of Brubaker’s Criminal freshly started and Cooke’s The Hunter garnering critical praise seemingly every other day, crime comics are at a height that they have not enjoyed since the Forties.

First of all it is a treasure trove of talent. From creators noted for their work in the underbelly, like the godfather of modern crime comics, Dean Motter; to the current master, Ed Brubaker; to those just making a name for themselves, Jeff Lemire; there is talent representing almost every corner of the comic world.

There are, of course, absolutely brilliant moments. David Lapham brings back his fan favorite Stray Bullets and Brubaker and Phillips write a fantastic entry in the Criminal world. Beyond those masters are a few treats. Those not familiar with Lemire will see his ability to tell powerfully emotional stories in stark black and white.

Surprisingly, a virtual unknown, Ken Lizzi, turns in possibly the strongest story of all. Instead of a comic, Mr. Lizzi gives the reader a short story with minimal illustrations by Joelle Jones. "Trustworthy" captures the feel of noir in all its cadence and seediness. It isn’t the most original story, but it works and in the world of pulp crime fiction that is as important as any other aspect.

Of course, being an anthology, there are stories that don’t work quite as well. Motter’s entry is a little view into the world of his infamous and influential Mister X. It doesn’t function on its own. Even if the darkness of the world and the insanity are conveyed in full, there is a distinct feeling that it doesn’t stand alone and will leave new readers out in the cold.

Alex De Campi and Hugo Petrus turn in "Fracture". This story seems to be an alternate kind of "what if this happened, no, this and then this or that" daydream by its female lead. Unfortunately, it is all kind of jumbled and never really pulls together, not even at its cutesy finish.

But the bad is far outweighed by the good. M.K. Perker tells a haunting tale of crime present that gives way to crimes past in "The Albanian". The art there is top notch and inventive. Azzarello gives what could be a prelude to Batman, making this reader want to find a copy of Broken City. Rick Geary turns off his cold and methodical historical voice and tells a highly cinematic bit worthy of the Coens.

With a Kane story from Grist, artwork by Gabriel Ba and more, this is as good as anthologies get, from one of comics' most consistently daring publishers. This reader only hopes that there will be more to follow.

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