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Scene of the Crime Hardcover – November 27, 2012
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Brubaker’s scripts are a big deal nowadays, and he has a handful of Eisners to prove it, but this deluxe edition of a four-issue miniseries (first published by Vertigo in 1999) shows how he made his mark—and marks the first of many fine collaborations with penciller Lark and inker Phillips. San Francisco PI Jack Herriman finds a woman’s missing sister and reports back that she’s OK. But the next morning, she’s dead, and a stricken Herriman is determined to find out why. The trail leads him into the past, to a sex cult founded long after the Summer of Love. Some growing pains are evident, most noticeably in the ridiculously wordy word balloons. But otherwise this is wonderful stuff, an atmospheric and darkly twisted tale that inverts some clichés (the PI is a scruffy, young former addict) while tipping the fedora to others (his uncle is a crime-scene photographer like Weegee). Bonus materials include a revealing afterword by Brubaker, side-by-side pages showing how the pencils became inked, and “Gods and Sinners,” an earlier Herriman story from Vertigo: Winter’s Edge, v.2 (1999). This was outlined as a longer series, notes the author; why the publisher dropped it is a mystery. --Keir Graff
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Top customer reviews
This reprint is long overdue -- Scene of the Crime is a classic noir story set in 1990's San Francisco, with a complex mystery, engaging characters and excellent art. It was unusual in its day for being a Vertigo comic set in the "real" world, as opposed to a fantasy or horror world. The new edition is especially handsome when compared to previous trade paperbacks.
Any fan of the collaborations between Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips should definitely have this on their book shelf.
If you enjoy Scene of the Crime, you should also check out Brubaker's collaboration with artist Jason Lutes (Berlin), The Fall.
For those of you that haven't given comics a chance ever in your life, or have looked at a few and dismissed them, please keep reading. I want to help you realize something that my sister just came to grips with: Comics are for everyone, you just have to find the right ones. And that is what CrimeCritics is all about, helping you guys know what to check out so that you don't waste your time and money. Leave that to us.
It is important to distinguish between the medium and the content when we look at entertainment. Dismissing all of TV would be to miss out on Discovery Channel's PLANET EARTH. Celebrating books in general would be to laud MEIN KAMPF, DIANETICS and THE SHACK (I just had a ton of fun lumping those three together). Comics are just a medium of combining visuals with literature. There is nothing more to it. Dozens of comics win awards every year by referring to themselves as "graphic novels". They are just a longer version of a single comic book. But now that most comic stories are written over several issues, and then collected in a single volume for publication, the difference is pure semantics.
Today I want to look at an Ed Brubaker comic called SCENE OF THE CRIME which Vertigo published in 1999. It was a four issue series which is now collected in a single paperback available from most bookstores. If you are into noir detective stories, enjoy watching serial crime shows on TV, or just want to take a break from your pulp novels to try out something different, please give this comic a try.
In classic Brubaker style, there is a ton of exposition in this comic. I love lots of dialog, it keeps your eyes lingering on the art of each panel and it makes you feel like you are getting a ton for your money. And at $10 for over 100 pages of art and excellent writing, there is no doubt about value here. Along with Brubaker's tight plotting you also get his normal partner in crime, the artist Michael Lark.
Lark has a realistic style and talent for grit that makes this a team that just can't be beat. One of the things that I love in SCENE OF THE CRIME is that Lark uses a lot of short panels that go the full width of a single page. You can see some of these panels in the gallery below. They give you the impression of watching a film on a real 1:2.35 screen. Or perhaps you are seeing these events through window blinds that are barely cracked. Either way, the characters always have a stooped-over feeling, as if they can feel the panel border just above them. It works without you even noticing it.
This is also one of Brubaker's best plots ever. A murder mystery with hippie communes and tons of twists and surprises, the story is broken up into 21 chapters. Instead of constricting himself to the four-issue release schedule, Brubaker breaks each scene up into its own container, and drops a doozy at the end of every issue. It makes reading this book in a collected work extremely satisfying. I also enjoyed following Jack Harriman, his young noir detective. Classically broken-down, Jack deals with several of his own demons as he attempts to solve the case. And instead of having to carry the plot on his own shoulders, he is joined by several friends and colleagues along the way which really makes the book feel more honest and real.
There is just too much here to like, and so much bang for the buck, that I will be disappointed in those of you that do not rush out to get a copy. Next time you are in your favorite bookstore, see if they have a copy to thumb through. Or check out the gallery below and just order one from Amazon. You spend more than this in Starbucks for a coffee and a scone. If I could ruin the ending for you and let you know what the final twist is, I guarantee that every one of our female readers and mothers from DreaminDemon would be tripping over themselves to snag a copy.
Ed Brubaker currently scripts he BATMAN monthly comic, the CATWOMAN comic in which he revamped the character, POINT BLANK, SLEEPER, a SLAM BRADLEY back-up and THE COMPLETE LOWLIFE. Also a cartoonist, Brubaker's work has been nominated for many Eisner Awards. Michael Lark is a favorite artist on noirish-type comics. His graphic novel, THE LITTLE SISTER, written and drawn by him, based on Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novel of the same title. Other work includes TERMINAL CITY, short stories for Vertigo's WINTER'S EDGE, SUPERMAN: WAR OF THE WORLDS, and BATMAN: NINE LIVES.
Brubaker's natural feel for crime writing lends Jack Herriman's world the luster of a dark and gritty reality. San Francisco is accurately portrayed without ever stepping too close to becoming a travelogue or a stereotype. The mystery and murders at the heart of the story, the years of loss and betrayal that come to culmination and spark to unleash the homicidal blaze that rocks Jack's world and leave him both more and less than what he had been are all played out honestly. Brubaker's got a gift for dialogue and allows the characters to come on stage and introduce themselves in ways even the excellent first-person narration can't quite do. Jack's world is full: he has his uncle and his uncle's girlfriend, Paul Raymonds--his dead father's partner, Steve Ellington--a friend and private eye for a big investigations firm, and an ex-girlfriend of his own that he can't quite get over. Besides getting entranced in the rich mystery that Brubaker presents, readers also get to wander through the impressive tapestry of pain, misery, loss, guilt, and half-truths that are Jack's life. The story offers quiet jokes, deep characters drawn in a few knowing lines, and the intensity of a steadily depressed spring. As Jack narrows the scope of his investigation, readers know that all hell is about to break loose: especially when additional bodies drop out of the woodwork and the violence escalates. Michael Lark's artwork is awesome: dark and moody, readers can smell the smoke in the seedy bars and will check the seats before sitting.
SCENE OF THE CRIME: A LITTLE PIECE OF GOODNIGHT is a wonderful graphic novel in the vein of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe detective novels. Brubaker says that Ross MacDonald was his favorite crime novelist, and a lot of the movement and rhythm of this tale shows that interest. Private eye fiction lovers who have never discovered the intricate joy of a graphic novel couldn't find a better place to start exploring the genre. Fans who already are familiar with Brubaker's work on BATMAN or CATWOMAN will want to add this one to their collections if it's not already there.