Murder Book collects a dozen or so crime comics by Ed Brisson and a coterie of artists. These are lean, dark, twisted tales, which take advantage of the genre’s flexible form, and delve into the many facets of society’s underbelly. They are not necessarily about bad guys; instead, they are about guys who’ve landed themselves in bad situations and are desperately trying to dig their way out.
The crime genre offers a plethora of narrative possibilities, and Brisson takes full advantage, offering stories about police detectives, carjackers, thieves, drug peddlers; you name an archetype, Brisson has it covered. Only they aren’t presented as archetypes. Even in this short-form, he manages to add a layer of humanity and depth to these people. We don’t need to know the full extent of their backstories to feel sympathy for them; even when that sympathy is twinged with disgust at their behaviour.
Artists Declan Shalvey, Michael Walsh, Jonnie Christmas – to name just three of a brilliant bunch – are all in top form, effectively utilising a black-and-white palette (or grey tones) to nail the dark, gritty atmosphere Brisson’s scripts demand. Each artist has a very distinct style, but the collection’s tone feels consistent, perhaps due to the implementation of simple layouts. Don’t expect double-page spreads or splash pages; by design many of these stories feel claustrophobic at times as the stories build tension.
Every story in Murder Book crackles with energy. Brisson and his cohorts have demonstrated an unparalleled ability to draw in the reader and make us feel every punch, every gunshot, every mistake. As far as crime comics go, this is one of the greatest anthologies out there. It’s a real treat.