Murder Book / Back to Brooklyn

I developed an interest in crime comics leading up to the creation and release of Acts of Violence: An Anthology of Crime Comics in which my comic “The Three Princes” appears. I researched the genre– from its heyday in the 40s and early 50s, to its decline (and the parallel decline of horror comics) in the late 50s, and eventual resurgence in the late 80s and early 90s– and located and read many of the genre’s shining examples, both past and present, including “Murder, Morphine and Me”, Miss: Better Living Through Crime, and Criminal. My interest in the genre continues post-Acts of Violence and I want to tell you about two additional shining examples of the genre—one a self-published endeavor from an emerging Canadian talent, and the other a book I did not know about until one of its creators told me to check it out.

Murder Book
(w) Ed Brisson
(a) Various

Like me, Ed Brisson developed a passion for the crime genre in the days leading up to Acts of Violence (the crime comics anthology was his idea; he recruited his co-creators; and contributed “The Orchard”). Buoyed by the positive response the anthology received, Brisson embarked on a new initiative. He would write and self-produce (I find the term “self-publish” does not accurately reflect all the work involved in producing and publishing comics) a series of short crime comics. He would make these available at and eventually collect the material in print editions, which he would then sell at conventions. To date, there are four original comics online and two print editions.

Ed is an accomplished letterer, but not an artist, so he enlisted emerging artists to bring his crime comics to life, including Canadians Simon Roy, Vic Malhotra, and Michael Walsh, and Damian Couceiro from Argentina. The visuals provide the needed atmosphere and often times violent visuals, but the foundation upon which those are built are Brisson’s tight, well crafted scripts. It takes talent to write a satisfying, complete narrative in less than 32 pages (the longest comic in Murder Book is 16 pages), but Brisson manages to do so every time he puts fingers to keyboard. In “Skimming the Till”, a coffee shop proprietor turns the tables on a pair of junkies that try to rob him. A former, now disabled, police officer is given an opportunity to deliver retribution in “Settling Up”. Another decision must be made in “Trickle”, but the individual making the decision is not really given a choice. And in “Catching Up”, a man who wants to remain anonymous encounters a person from his past. That comic launched Murder Book. It was a remarkable debut Brisson has managed to live up to.

I’m not the only one singing the praises of Murder Book. The online series was nominated for a 2010 Shuster Award and Gail Simone was so impressed by the material she recently praised it publicly on Twitter.

If, like me, you prefer print over digital, the two collections of Murder Book are available at ComicReaders South. Having met Brisson and sampled the goods at the 2011 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo, Dana stocked his shelves with the books. (Chad Boudreau)

Back to Brooklyn
Image Comics
(w) Jimmy Palmiotti & Garth Ennis
(a) Mihailo Vukelic
FC, 128 pgs $14.99 US

I had the opportunity to speak with comic creator Jimmy Palmiotti at the 2011 Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. After presenting him with a complimentary copy of Acts of Violence, he suggested I check out Back to Brooklyn, a crime comic he wrote a few years back with Garth Ennis. The thumbnail description he gave of the nasty violence within its pages caught my interest.

Back to Brooklyn is indeed violent. Blood-soaked is the term that comes readily to mind. Mafioso Bob Saetta has voluntarily turned rat in order to bring down his brother, Paul, who currently heads the number one criminal organization in Brooklyn. The cops and FBI must promise safety for Bob’s wife and kid, but early in the book Bob learns his loved ones have been kidnapped by his brother’s goons. Enraged and fearing for the lives of his wife and son, Bob cuts a new deal with the Feds, the key component of which is he is secretly released so he can go back to Brooklyn to rescue his family. What Bob doesn’t tell the coppers is he’ll need to cut a bloody swath through Brooklyn’s criminal underground in order to do so.

I was not a fan of the visual look of the book—the art and colors did little to excite, create tension, add atmosphere, or, in some cases, present distinct characters—but fortunately Palmiotti and co-writer Garth Ennis know how to craft a piece of crime fiction. The dialogue is top-notch, with a natural feel and flow, and for a book with a high body count, there is plenty of words spoken by its multitude of main and supporting characters. Back to Brooklyn is, in fact, driven equally by its characters and its plot. Many of the characters have a shared history, and it is explored to some degree without relying on flashbacks. The history is woven seamlessly into the main narrative, which keeps the plot moving forward. Bob is on a time sensitive mission, after all.  The writers succeed in maintaining that sense of urgency and rising tension. Final word: It was the plot, dialogue, and rich character arcs that made me rip through this book. (Chad Boudreau)

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