Ed Brubaker is one of my favorite writers on the Daredevil monthly comic, which he’s still currently writing. He constantly produces razor-sharp dialogue, believable emotion, and enough twists and turns to keep me on my toes. He also had an incredible run on Catwoman. His recent work on Captain America (especially concerning the resurrection of Bucky Barnes as Winter Soldier and the death of Steve Rogers) catapulted him to national attention.
However, I enjoy Brubaker’s Criminal comics as much as anything he’s written. So far Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips have finished three graphic novels’ worth of material. The series won an Eisner Award in 2007 for Best New Series.
Brubaker and Phillips put stories together whenever they can, then run them as mini-series before they’re eventually gathered into graphic novels. I love the stories because they’re hard hitting noir tales about tough guys, violence, and constant danger. There’s not a superhero among them, and very few innocents.
Lawless is the second collection, and it’s a barbed-wire punch to the throat. Sleek and deadly as a bullet, the story of Tracy Lawless’s quest for revenge after his brother ends up dead rockets along to a climatic finish that belongs on the big screen.
Brubaker’s narrative, echoed by Phillips’s art, is interesting in this arc. Instead of simply breaking the story out from start to finish, Brubaker reveals everything in episodic chunks. He starts with an action, like killing a man on a rooftop and disposing of his body in a Dumpster in the alley, then circles back around to tell readers who the man was and why Tracy killed him.
Looking back through the graphic novel, I noticed how deliberate the reveals were. Brubaker dropped pebbles of plot into the pond of his story, then chased the ripples out for the readers till everything came together. The method is very effective, like getting a bite-size chunk of a mystery that allows you a look at only one piece of a larger puzzle.