The Dead and the Dying is the book in Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal series where they really harness their mastery of modern noir. This is a book so bleak, cold and calculatingly twisted, it will have you clamouring for more. It’s all the worst things about life and the slog it can be to better your situation, only for it to end on the cold, hard slab of death.
The book is divided into three chapters, each one telling the story of a character, whose life is going to end up in an almighty mess. Each character is intricately intertwined with the others in a downward spiral of inevitability. We learn about their backgrounds and the shared common events that make up the plot of the book, from each of their perspectives. We see how the decisions they and the people around them make lead them to their destiny. And our opinions of characters change as the book progresses and we see different sides of the same story. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotion and struggle, as these people endeavour to make something of their lives, only to have their hopes and dreams torn apart, by poor judgement and their inability to escape their surroundings.
Brubaker’s script is subtle and cunning, pulling the reader through their own journey of discovery and revelation. He’s at the top of his game here – Brubaker fans will lap it up, while those new to his work can start here for a knock-out introduction to his work.
Phillips’ artwork remains well suited to the story, with a roughly hewn edge that disguises his ability to create page after page of consistent work. While Brubaker cranks out scripts like this, Phillips’ work shrinks into the background a tad, though this only goes to demonstrate how perfect he is for the job, keeping the visual narrative perfectly paced to the writer’s beat.
If you haven’t delved into Criminal before, this is a great place to start, as it’s the best book in an already cracking series and each one stands alone. Ditto for those who haven’t yet converted to the church of Brubaker – this will certainly leave you eager to search out more of his work. And if we still haven’t persuaded you, you’re missing out: Brubaker is like the Martin Scorsese of comics, unafraid to put his neck on the line for a good story and more than capable of turning out the occasional masterpiece, especially when it comes to modern noir.
More books in the Criminal series:
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More books by Ed Brubaker:
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