Review: Murder Book by Ed Brisson

Murder Book.jpgMurder 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.

 

ISBN: 9781616556815
Format: Paperback  (259mm x 169mm x 13mm)
Pages: 184
Imprint: Dark Horse Comics
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Publish Date: 31-Mar-2015
Country of Publication: United States

Review: 24 – Underground by Ed Brisson & Michael Gaydos

24 UndergroundJack Bauer is one of my favourite action heroes of all time, right up there with James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher. But after eight seasons, a tele-movie, countless book and comic tie-ins, I’ll admit: the character had grown stale, becoming a caricature of his former self. So when the television mini-series 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY was announced, I tempered my excitement. Four years after the season 8 finale, I had my doubts over Jack Bauer’s return. I was similarly wary when IDW declared they were co-releasing a 4-issue comic book series detailing a key event from Bauer’s ‘missing’ years; 24’s previous comic incarnations were tepid at best. But this time, for 24: UNDERGROUND, IDW assembled a crack creative team consisting of Ed Brission and Michael Gaydos – and it succeeds primarily because it forsakes the core mechanic behind the television series.

24 is famous for its ticking clocking and, obviously, taking place within a 24 hour period. But 24: UNDERGROUND ignores these elements made famous in its filmed counterpart. Events take place over the space of a few hours, but it’s never specified precisely how long. It doesn’t matter. We’re here for Jack Bauer – not for a plot that spans a full day.

Speaking of plot: it’s not the most innovative. In fact, it’s downright derivative of events from previous seasons, especially the first, when Jack’s daughter was kidnapped towards the season’s end. Essentially, since being classified a terrorist, Bauer has adopted a new identity and has formed a relationship with a woman (season 5, anyone?) in Odessa. He’s working for his girlfriend’s husband, who lands himself in some strife when he’s forced to assist in a theft of methylamine. Failure to comply will result in the death of everyone he holds dear. Naturally Jack Bauer won’t stand for that, so he agrees to help Petro get out from under the criminals’ thumbs – and in doing so, sets off a chain of events involving the CIA’s Ukraine office and a villain from his past. The problem is the plot boils down purely to one man’s thirst for revenge against Bauer – which is evocative of the Drazen villains from season 1.

Still, the pages turn quickly, and what the plot lacks in innovation it makes up for in execution. Brisson’s script flits between the various players with masterful deftness, and he throws the obligatory “damn it’s!” into Bauer’s dialogue. Brisson nails Bauer’s character, which is no small feat. Gaydos’ rendering of Bauer is also stellar – Kiefer Sutherland’s likeness is there on every panel, and doesn’t look traced, which is a problem we often see in comics based on film or television properties.

24: UNDERGROUND isn’t essential to the 24 canon – of course it’s not, its core audience doesn’t pay attention to comic book adaptations. But it’s a fun, quick read, and fans of 24 will lap it up and enjoy it. Those less familiar with the character and his long, convoluted history might be less obliging.

Review: Comeback by Ed Brisson & Michael Walsh

ComebackCOMEBACK by Ed Brisson Michael Walsh is fast-paced action-packed time travel story; a thriller, with time travel as its central mechanic.

Mark and Seth are agents for the illegal agency Reconnect – for an inflated price, they’ll go back in time to save people from their untimely demise. But the FBI have noticed the anomalies they’ve created, and are on the hunt – which coincides with the spectacular failure of their most recent mission, and the decision by their employers to burn the whole operation to the ground to protect themselves.

It’s a convoluted plot, but writer Brisson keeps the narrative on the straight-and-narrow by avoiding soliloquies about time travel technology, and the dangers of it, and instead keeps the focus on the two main characters, the rocket-fast plot; there’s no time for monologues, there’s a story to tell, dammit!

Although the plot flits back and forth between past and present, and there’s no subtle change in colour palette to mark the transition, we’re never questioning which timeline we’re viewing – and when we do, it’s intentional, and for the sake of a dramatic reveal.

Walsh is the perfect artist for a project like this; his pencils are rough and gritty, but his storytelling ability is superb. His work would be perfect for a crime comic, but just as suitable for a street-level sci-fi comic.

COMEBACK is a short, but very sweet, thrill-ride. While there is room for deeper character exploration, maybe the elongation of certain moments, it’s great seeing a creative team tell the story they want to tell, then pull away; always leave the reader wanting more, they say. To that, I ask: when do we get a sequel?