Category Archives: Noir Comics

Noir Comics | The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke

The Score Darwyn Cooke Richard Stark

My Copy

Darwyn Cooke has an amazing talent for novel-to-comic adaptation, and The Score is a particularly delicious example. Originally a noir crime fiction novel by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake), Mr. Cooke has turned a great heist plot into a visual treat of diabolical noir. The Score is the third such release in the last few years, and is easily the most ambitious of the trio not only in the broad scope of the heist but also in the breadth of the characters.

I imagine that one of the most difficult things about such an undertaking is making sure that each character is represented correctly and is easily recognizable from panel to panel. In the previous volumes, there were only five to six characters maximum, but The Score is comprised of a cast more than twice that. As a result, the story seems to be more shallow than the previous two, albeit no less entertaining or engaging. I feel compelled to read the entire graphic novel again, purely to make sure that all the moving parts fall into place.

The Score begins with Parker wandering the streets of a deserted city at night. A smallish fellow in a plaid coat obviously follows him, though Parker seems to be ignorant of the tail (the keyword here is “seems”). The little guy is quickly cornered and interrogated, his last mistake pulling a knife in defense. Parker kills him with bare hands.

Noir Comics Parker The Score

Page 16

This sort of thing doesn’t spook Parker, it annoys him. He returns to a hideout and tells a small gang waiting there, “The deals off. I’m out.” You see, to Parker, something like this is a sign that the job is sour; and he won’t take a job that’s sour. The finger, a man named Edgars, prevails upon Parker to at least hear the job out before walking, and it’s in the details that Parker can’t resist: They’re going to knock over a whole town.

Parker is a great protagonist because he feels like an antagonist. He’s unfeeling, cold, and abrasive. Donald Westlake writes:

The idea of the book had come about in a very mundane way; I walked across the George Washington Bridge. I’d been visiting a friend about 30 miles upstate from New York, and had taken a bus back to the city. However, I’d chosen the wrong bus, on that terminated on the New Jersey side of the bridge instead of the New York side (where I could catch my subway). So I walked across the bridge, surprised at how windy it was out there (when barely windy at all anywhere else) and at how much the apparently solid bridge shivered and swung from the wind and the pummeling of the traffic. There was speed in the cars going by, vibration in the bridge under my feet, tension in the whole atmosphere.

Riding downtown in the subway I slowly began to evolve in my mind the character who was right for that setting, whose own speed and solidity and tension matched that of the bridge. People I knew came and went, but he quickly took on his own face, his own hard-skeletoned way of walking; I saw him as looking something like Jack Palance, and I wondered: Why is he walking across the bridge? Not because he took the wrong bus. Because he’s angry. Not hot angry; cold angry. Because there are times when tools won’t serve, not hammers or cars or guns or telephones, when only the use of your own body will satisfy,  the hard touch of your own hands.

So I wrote the book, about this sonofabitch called Parker, and in the course of the story I couldn’t help starting to like him, because he was so defined; I never had to brood about what he’d do next. He always knew. To some extent, I suppose, I liked Parker for what he wouldn’t tell me about himself.

I absolutely love this series, these books are the noir crown jewels of my bookcase. The binding is the highest quality possible, and the hardback is beautifully vintage. My only peeve is that I have to wait until 2013 for the next one!

Parker Richard Stark

Page 18

Parker Darwyn Cooke

Page 19

The Score Comic

Page 25

Noir Comics The Score Darwyn Cooke

Page 27

Richard Stark's Parker The Score

Page 49

Femme Fatale Parker The Score

Page 53

Parker Novels Darwyn Cook

Page 78

Noir Comics Darwyn Cook

Page 119

The Score by Richard Stark and Darwyn Cooke

sans dustjacket

The Score by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark

sans dustjacket 2

I hate the quality of these images (taken with my last gen Android)- but the internet has a pitiful offering where the contents of this great noir comic is concerned. I wanted to at least give you a peek at some of the quality work being done here, even if the pics don’t do it justice.


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Noir Comics | Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Noir Comics Fatale Ed Brubaker Sean Phillips

Fatale by Ed Brubake and Sean Phillips

Fatale is a noir and horror genre cross-breed from my favorite creator team, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Brubaker’s tale is his most complex and twisted yet, spanning a half-century of events told in tandem. Phillips’ art is an exercise in style, his own now-so-recognizable as it enters its fully-realized maturity. I was delighted to trudge through muddy uni-sized panels as dark as any noir and darker for their horrific tilt. Taken as a whole, Fatale is cosmic Lovecaftian noir orbiting an undying femme fatale.

Noir Comics Fatale Josephine


Where the complexity of the plot intimidates, it’s important to pay close attention to the characters and events as they unfold. Fatale is not a lazy reader, to be taken in random snippets on assorted afternoons; It’s made to be read in the deep throat of night, white knuckles turning pages and reexamining panels for hidden, less-obvious, details.

Noir Comics Fatale


The setting is split between our present-day and the 1950s- with the same seductive and ageless woman in the center of the action.  In former times, we see San Francisco reporter Hank Raines falling into the fatal perfumed pitfalls of classic noir fare. While in our day, Nicolas Lash discovers a secret that sets him on a perilous and dark trajectory, dooming him to repeat the past. The woman that spans the century in question, Josephine, breaks the archetypical mold of the femme fatale, becoming a creature of fantastical power and influence. Most femme fatale themes within the noir genre deal directly with the idea of resistance, but what if you are physically unable to resist her? What if you must obey? This theme of helpless obedience, of complete power wielded by the female lead, comprises the central theme of this groundbreaking noir comic.

Horror Comics Fatale


We need more creators who aren’t afraid to push the noir comics genre into new realms. Brubaker and Phillips have been staking new boundaries for years, I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Fatale Josephine Sean Phillips


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Noir Comics | Criminal: Bad Night by Ed Brubaker

Noir Comics Criminal Bad Night Ed Brubaker Sean Phillips

Criminal: Bad Night Cover (via

Criminal: Bad Night by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is the best volume in the series. This arc is the one that sent me over the edge from “series-admirer” to “series fanboy.” Phillips’ art is moody and personal, as dreary and sleep deprived as the insomniac protagonist, and Brubaker’s pulp style never disappoints. The book is riddled with plot twists and heinous discoveries, and is a first-hand witness of a man’s plummet into madness.

Noir Comics Criminal Bad Night


Here’s an overview of the plot:

Jacob Kurtz is a nearly crippled widower with a past proclivity for counterfeiting. He spends his days writing a serial-style comic called “Frank Kafka” for the local paper and his nights trying fruitlessly to sleep. He’s completely caged by his loneliness and unwavering routine. His health problems are largely a result of an undeserved beating he received when it was believed that he murdered his wife, in reality she had been the victim of an unfortunate car accident that left her body hidden for months. Now, Jacob is a recluse who’s seeking nothing by privacy and four hours of sleep a day; if he can get it. So absorbed in his own timeless drudgery, he’s completely  unprepared for the one Bad Night.

Noir Comics Criminal Bad Night


He visits a local diner nearly every night, takes his normal spot at the bar and checks the day’s paper for his latest “Kafka” installment. Behind him in a booth of their own, a man shouts obscenities at a woman and perches on the edge of violence. Tensions inevitably flare, but are quickly defused when the couple are expelled from the restaurant. Jacob puts this strange encounter from his mind, but is quickly reminded when he drives past the woman from the diner walking home in the rain. The inciting incident for the whole noir comic is when he decides to offer her a ride.

Noir Comics Criminal Bad Night


I could do a whole noir definition run-down on this graphic novel, but it’s the fourth book in the series and I’ve already done it for the three previous. Ed Brubaker who is a master noir story-teller, he doesn’t need me to point out why. It’s noir, okay? Trust me. Better yet, trust Brubaker and Phillips. Additionally, I don’t want to ruin the plot of this one. It’s one of those books you wish you could go back and experience again for the first time. Once you know the end, you see it from the beginning.

Noir Comics Criminal Bad Night


Bad Night is one of the greatest written examples of a femme fatale in the genre. She’s text-book perfection as far as plot goes, and Jacob’s interactions with her couldn’t be better. This book is cerebral noir, most of the action happens between the ears, and it’s that much more frightening because we’ve been down those dark corridors in our own psyche. The only difference is, Jacob believes in what he finds there, and swallows wholesale the rationalizations and imagined conspiracies. But we never do that, we’re smarter than that…aren’t we?

Please read Criminal: Bad Night. If you only read one noir comic ever, please read this one.

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Noir Comics | Max Payne: “After the Fall” #1

Noir Comics Max Payne 3 After the Fall Cover

Max Payne 3: After the Fall

I don’t think I need to restate how much I love the Max Payne series or Sam Lake, the original series author. A month ago, around the same time I was pre-ordering Max Payne 3 for xbox 360, I learned from a Rockstar Games press release that Dan Houser and Sam Lake would be co-writing a free Max Payne digital comic book. The comic is now available. Here is the link:

Noir Comics Max Payne 3 Bullet Time

Bullet Time

Rather than do a full noir definition run-down on the comic, I’ll just provide my initial impressions based upon the first issue of this ongoing digital project. All the screen caps are my own, and I hope they illustrate the sections of the noir comic that I found most rewarding.

Same old Pain.

One of the biggest fears I’ve had about the pending release of the Max Payne 3 video game is the lack of Sam Lake on the development team. The first two games drew their noir potency from his ink, and the thought of a Max Payne story without his involvement seemed wrong. This comic set me at ease. The setting is a twisting corridor of torturous flash-backs, like the revelations of a mad man. Max has been through hell, and in “After the Fall” he’s still there, held captive by demons old and new. As you read his dark monologues, you’ll hear the flat baritone of James McCaffrey and you’ll smile. Nothing important has changed, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

Noir Comics Max Payne 3 Painkillers



The most intriguing aspect of this first issue is the glimpse we are given into the fear-riddled childhood of the anti-hero. We learn that his abusive father was an alcoholic and the cause of his mother’s early death. The story then takes an even more violent turn and suggests that Max may have been his father’s executioner, a taker of vengeance on behalf of his mother. Understanding his childhood, at least in part, adds new depth to the tragedy of his wife and infant’s deaths. For in that depth we can see his fear of becoming his father; his fear of becoming a harmer of loved ones.

Noir Comics Max Payne 3 Patricide


Art noir.

The panels are excellent, and are beautiful examples of noir art. The colors are moody and atmospheric, especially during the flashback scenes. I always value the noir comics that can tell more in a panel then they can with dialogue. Max Payne: After the Fall accomplishes this.

Noir Comics Max Payne 3 Old Soldier

Old Soldier


Ultimately, we are privy to a Max that is older and even more deranged and damaged than before. He’s swimming in an ocean of addiction, self pity, and violence. He’s a man with a death wish and a guardian devil over his shoulder, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

**The noir comic is completely free, what are you waiting for? Go get it:

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Noir Comics Giveaway #3

Noir Comics Giveaway

3 trades, 1 hardcover

UPDATE: April 23rd 2012

Thank you for participating and supporting! Nina Mashurova is this drawings winner! Congrats! Please come back in the future for more giveaway details.

I woke up this morning and the weather was so beautiful I decided to do another Noir Comics giveaway! Those of you who’ve participated before know the score, I’m giving away some great noir comics absolutely FREE. Here are the four books included:

Luna Park by Kevin Baker and Danijel Zezelj (Trade Paperback)

Acts of Violence: An Anthology of Crime Comics by Various Authors (Trade Paperback)

Spicy Detective (Sept. 1938) by Various Authors (Trade Paperback/Vintage Re-Print)

And Bonus:

Shuddertown Vol. 1 by Nick Spencer and Adam Geen (Hardcover)

The entire bundle will be shipped free of cost to the winner. Want in? Here’s what you do:

“Like” the NoirWhale Facebook Fan Page anytime BEFORE midnight April 22nd and you will automatically be entered into the drawing. (YES, if you have already done so, you are already in the running). 

The winner will be announced on Monday April 23rd, and the bundle will be shipped out to them the following day!


Good luck to all the participants, I’m sure you will enjoy these noir comics as much as I have!

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Noir Comics | Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido

Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Junjo Guarnido is an incredibly fine piece of noir. I’ll begin by thanking Zach S., without whom I would be completely ignorant of such a wonderful noir comic. Although the creators are Spaniards, Blacksad was initially published in France, and has since seen dozens of international editions and incomparable acclaim worldwide.

Noir Comics Blacksad

Blacksad (The Cover)

The hardcover edition that I own is a gathering of three stories written about the private-eye John Blacksad; “Somewhere Within the Shadows”, “Arctic Nation”, and “Red Soul”. Each of the characters are anthropomorphic, and even when famous individuals from history appear in the story, they do so in animal fashion. Don’t be fooled by the cartoonistic quality of the art, because the story is as gritty and real as any noir lover could desire.

“Rather than animals who act like people, the creators’ approach is predicated on people who resemble animals.”

-Jim Steranko

Junjo Guarnido’s style is deeply emotional, and each panel builds upon the last. I was surprised by how his art took me to my childhood, and I learned that this is largely in part because of his work at Disney.

Noir Comics Blacksad

John Blacksad (via

Here is a brief teaser of each story:

“Somewhere Within the Shadows”

A famous actress and former lover of John Blacksad is found brutally murdered. Although their relationship ended years ago, the wound is fresh and painful, and the event sends the private-eye spiraling into a cold hell that he must embrace to deal lasting justice on her behalf.

Noir Comics Blacksad Arctic Nation

Arctic Nation (via

“Arctic Nation”

Racial tensions boil violently beneath the surface of an idealistic neighborhood, and John Blacksad is tasked with peeling back the veneer. He plumbs the depths of corruption, sexual depravity, and racially charged atrocity, eventually revealing a secret that has been hidden for 20 years.

Noir Comics Blacksad Red Soul Alma Mayer

Alma Mayer (Edited)

“Red Soul”

At the height of the “Red Scare”, John Blacksad finds himself tangled in a web of communist sympathizers and the powers that wish them dead. While the future peace between the world’s superpowers hangs in the balance, John finds a woman and a plot that will make him risk everything.

Here’s how Blacksad stacks against the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

Quintessential noir genre underworld. Crime scenes, city streets, posh mansions, and ghetto slums. The backgrounds are just as detailed and vibrant as the characters. The setting literally leaps out of the panels.

Noir Comics Blacksad

Somewhere Within the Shadows (via

2) The Anti-Hero

John Blacksad is a brooding black cat.  He’s loyal, sensitive, strong, and intelligent, but he’s betrayed by his own code in the end. Sacrificing for the greater good may have seemed like the right decision, but it leaves the reader with the bleakest ending possible. Deliciously noir.

3) The Femme Fatale

Natalia Willford may seem the natural choice for the femme fatale because she causes so much turmoil for John in “Somwhere Within the Shadows” (she’s the actress/ex-lover that is murdered). But, even though Natalia causes him to kill in cold blood, Alma Mayer seems the better femme fatale (the woman who appears in “Red Soul”). When they meet she is engaged to be married, but she quickly develops an affair with John. Theirs is a tragic love, and the emptiness of lost love pervades the last pages of the noir comic.

Noir Comics Blacksad Red Soul

Red Soul, Hitler's Cameo

4) Misogyny

Classic misogyny and old-school masculinity make dirty bedfellows in Blacksad. Spousal abuse, rape, and infidelity all have a part within the story.

5) Redemption

Blacksad is constantly propelled by the theme of redemption. The tragedy is that most of the redemption he seeks is not to be had. For instance, the entire first story he is consumed with redeeming the irredeemable: saving Natalia. Because she has already met her end, his only sense of redemption can come through pursuing justice against her killer. His victory is hollow because it reverses nothing.

Noir Comics Blacksad

Justice. (via

6) Eroticism

Sexuality exists throughout Blacksad, but the heaviest dose appears in “Arctic Nation”. The central issues of the plot revolve around infidelity, clandestine affairs, and pedophilia.

7) Loss of Innocence

There is a moment of lost innocence in each of the three stories, but the most powerful one is felt in “Red Soul”. A man who aided in the creation of the Atomic Bomb (Lieber) revisits his old neighbor only to find that it has become a slum of humanity. He’s confronted by poverty and the ruins of his father’s church, and it overwhelms him. His emotions are expertly captured by Guarnido, and the panel is poignant.

Noir Comics Blacksad Red Soul Lieber

Lieber's lost innocence

8 ) Racism

“Arctic Nation” is easily the best of the three stories, and is completely woven together by racism. It’s funny how simple and silly the racial question appears when presented in the anthropomorphic format. Essentially, animals with white fur hate animals with black fur. I absolutely loved the complex layers of plot and social anxiety present in this section. It’s a masterpiece.

9) Smoke

John Blacksad smokes like a chimney, just like any great detective should.

Noir Comics Blacksad Arctic Nation

Arctic Nation, Lynching (via

10) Emasculation

The theme of emasculation is also very constant throughout each of the chapters. Powerful men fear the loss of their power, and it drives them to desperate ends. Often very depraved ends.

Please read Blacksad. It is one of my very favorite noir comics.

Noir Comics Blacksad Red Soul

Red Soul, car bomb

Watch out for Blacksad: A Silent Hell coming soon.

Noir Comics Blacksad A Silent Hell

Blacksad: A Silent Hell (via


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Noir Comics | Polar by Victor Santos

Noir Comics Polar Victor Santos

First, let me admit that I deserve no credit for finding this amazing noir comic. I have several friends who are in the business of keeping an eye out for anything noir genre related, and then sending it my way. So, Matt P, thanks buddy.

Victor Santos is a very talented artist who has made a name for himself in the international comics industry. He’s worked with American authors such as Brian Azzarello, Bryan Glass, and Mike Oeming.

“He has won six awards of the Barcelona international comic convention and three in the Madrid con. He also won the Dolmen magazine best artist critics´award.”

Noir Comics Polar Victor Santos Page 6

Page 6

Polar is a classically vibrant approach to noir comics. Its minimalistic style and clear cut panels deliver a mood that is at once bleak and riveting. No written script or dialogue exists in the story, and thus crosses all language boundaries. Victor explains his approach,

“The story uses a minimalistic and direct style inspired by movies like Le Samurai (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967), Tokyo Drifter (Seijun Suzuki, 1965) or Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)and novels like The Killer inside me (Jim Thompson, 1952)orThe Eiger Sanction (Trevanian, 1979). Polar is also a tribute to artists like Jim Steranko, Jose Muñoz, Alberto Breccia, Alex Toth and Frank Miller,.

The main character is Black Kaiser, an international hitman born in the same titled graphic novel, published by Planeta-De-Agostini in Spain and Italy in 2010.”

Noir Comics Polar Victor Santos Page 16

Page 16

Does it hold up the noir definition? Here are a few of the most prevalent noir themes:

The Seedy Underworld

A lone and secluded cabin folded in blankets of snow is the setting of Polar. A hardened hit squad arrives on the outskirts of the tree line as a strange visitor is deposited at the front door by a snowmobile. Inside, the cabin is warm and dark. The silence of the characters is harmonious with the silence of the snow bound wilderness. The entire color pallet of the setting is black, white, and red (very Frank Miller-esque), and highlights the light and shadow requisite of any good noir setting. It’s magnificent.

The Anti-Hero

Black Kaiser is a ruggedly handsome, eye-patched brute. He’s poised on the edge of violence; always a hairsbreadth from danger.

The Femme Fatale

The strange visitor sheds her coat to reveal a lingerie-clad goddess. She wastes no time putting Black Kaiser to bed. With razor blade hidden in cheek, she is the epitome of the femme fatale archetype: Beautiful, alluring, manipulative, and deadly.

Noir Comics Polar Victor Santos Page 9

Page 9

Victor Santos updates this noir comic with new pages every Monday and Thursday. PLEASE head over and support him so he never stops!

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Noir Comics | Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Noir Comics Scarlet Bendis Maleev

my hardcover copy of the first volume

Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev is a very interesting noir comic. It takes the classic inner-monologue approach of pulp fame and turns it conversational. The lead character, Scarlet, a twenty-something anarchist bent on revenge speaks directly to the reader for the majority of the comic. She places the reader in the scene beside her, and simultaneously explains her actions and confesses her sins. She seems compelled to defend herself, and even more compelled to convince the reader that her intentions are noble. The first scene: she kills a cop.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev

Speaking directly to the reader

Scarlet recounts her tragic history, and slowly reveals the events that led her to her current authority-figure murdering state. We learn that she and her friends were singled out by a drug-addled policemen with horrid intentions, and that when her boyfriend Gabriel resisted arrest he and Scarlet were gunned down. Weeks later, Scarlet wakes on a cot in a hospital ward to the news that Gabriel didn’t survive and his killer is being heralded as a hero. Turns out the police department planted evidence on her boyfriend after they killed him, and made it look like an amazing bust for Officer Gary Dunes.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev Head Shot

Gary Dunes shoots Scarlet in the head

1) The Seedy Underworld

Beautiful Portland Oregon. City streets, dark booze-halls, and picturesque rooftops.

2) The Anti-Hero

Scarlet is the anti-hero of this noir comic. She will not allow Detective Gary Dunes to get away with the murder of her love, and she has the entire Portland Police Department in her cross-hairs.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev Femme Fatale

utilizing her assets

3) The Femme Fatale

She is also the femme fatale of the story. Scarlet is very conscious of her sexuality and charisma and is unafraid of using both to accomplish her ends. At one point in the comic she puts her flesh on display at Dunes’ local haunt and waits for him to take the bait. He’s sorry he did.

4) Misogyny

A moderate amount of misogyny exists in the story. Scarlet is completely under-estimated because she is a young female. Like most male-created female protagonists she is sexy and dresses to embellish her more flattering features. Also, the fact that the entire story is born out of the death of a man seems a touch male-centric (as if a woman’s life is over if she loses her man).

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev Gary Dunes

Detective Dunes caught in Scarlet's web

5) Redemption

Scarlet is nothing more than a redemption story. Its timing is fascinating, because the last year has seen a vast increase in the number of protests and revolutions throughout the world. This story re-imagines the peaceful gathering as a violent force that cannot be stopped, and looks at current   governmental authority as more than a modicum of tyranny. Initially, Scarlet wants to redeem the murder of the only man she ever loved. She fights selfishly, and unintentionally her cause becomes selfless as she begins to target the corrupted core of the government for the good of the common people.

6) Eroticism

Just a touch of sexuality throughout. Nothing I would consider erotic.

Noir Comics Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev

Among her Followers

7) Loss of Innocence

Scarlet’s world is shattered when she discovers that the police are not “the good guys.” Her world view up to that point then becomes entirely suspect, and her trajectory is altered forever.

8 ) Racism


Femme Fatale Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev

Scarlet (via

9) Smoke

An afterthought.

10) Emasculation

Because the main character is a female, she is untouched by this theme. I could say that her actions emasculate the mayor, the current police force, and the government as a whole but that feels like a stretch.

In conclusion I will say that I am looking forward to book 2 of Scarlet. My only problem with the story is the fact that she spends so much of her time talking to the reader. It’s unsettling, and really made me uncomfortable at points….maybe that was the idea all along. Scarlet is another great addition to the noir comics genre.

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Noir Comics | Criminal Volume 3: The Dead and The Dying

Noir Comics Criminal The Dead and The Dying

the final chapter of my deluxe edition (pictured: Teeg Lawless)

Criminal: The Dead and The Dying is a completely magnificent noir comic. Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips have a raw chemistry that lends authority to their comics; You’ll feel like you picked up a piece of vintage noir crime fiction off the shelf next to Hammett, Chandler, and Cain. I know that I am a hopeless Brubaker fanboy but I believe that this series defends itself (so back-up haters).

In this volume, the story worms into the 1970’s and focuses on the lives of the “old guard” of Center City. This previous generation of criminals is just as dysfunctional, corrupt, and depraved as the current. We are made privy to decisions that created the outcomes experienced in the previous two volumes, and the curtain is drawn back on the complex connections between each of the characters and their underworld. Jake “Gnarly” Brown, Teeg Lawless, and Danica Briggs are painted in bold unforgiving strokes and chipped by adversity in one of the most heart-wrenching plot-lines yet.

Noir Comics Criminal The Dead and The Dying Cover

The Trade Paperback Cover

Second Chance in Hell

From the previous volumes, Jake “Gnarly” Brown is known to be the barkeep/owner of The Undertow in Center City. This chapter of The Dead and The Dying bridges the gap between his “up-and-coming” career as a talented boxer and his eventual disgraceful post as the washed up operator of a seedy establishment. It’s revealed that Gnarly’s father was hired muscle for Walter Hyde in the 1950’s and led to his successful rise to the top of the crime world. Thus, for good or bad, the Brown and Hyde families became inseparably connected. Growing up, Gnarly was great friends with Sebastian Hyde (Walter’s son and future crime lord), but their relationship became strained when they both showed interest in the same woman: Danica Briggs. As Sebastian dove deeper into the crime world, Gnarly was unwilling to follow. Their schism ends in a whirlwind of violence that destroys a friendship and robs Gnarly of a promising career.

Noir Comics Criminal The Dead and The Dying Second Chance in Hell

End of a Friendship

A Wolf Among Wolves

Teeg Lawless is a bastion of blind violence and the unfulfilled American dream. He returns from the Vietnam War to a country divided, an estranged wife, and children he doesn’t know. His spiral is painful trip through child abuse, infidelity, and alcoholism. Every moment he seems on the verge of killing or being killed, and worse he seems split on which he desires more. Working with the Hyde family, sleeping with Danica Briggs, blacking out for days, delivering beatings, and making getaways between pitiful tearful moments at home comprise this chapter. He represents the lost generation of men who died in Vietnam long before they came home.

Noir Comics Criminal The Dead and The Dying A Wolf Among Wolves

The End of a Marriage

Female of the Species

Danica Briggs is a femme fatale who was made by the racism and abuse she was forced to endure. Forced into addiction by thugs, she regains some semblance of self-control and power through the sexual manipulation of men. As in all noir comics, she is male-defined but Brubaker takes it one step further. He showcases the events that led her to her definition, and reveals that not only was her character male-defined but also male-created. Were it not for the horrors she was subjected to, she would have had a much different life; perhaps she would have had a normal life with Gnarly? The most intense scenes surround her pregnancy, and the scandals that stole her child.

Noir Comics Criminal The Dead and The Dying Female of the Species

The End of a Life

Criminal: The Dead and The Dying is a tragic look at the frailty of human character and gouges at morality in an immoral world. The volume painfully depicts the cost of clinging to principles of righteousness in the poisonous fume of lust, greed, power, and sin. In the noir comics Criminal series, the characters that aren’t “dead” are certainly “dying.”

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Noir Comics | Scalped: The Gravel In Your Guts

Noir Comics The Gravel in Your Guts Cover


The fourth volume of the critically acclaimed Scalped series was full of powerful turning points and reversals in the story-line. Jason Aaron’s Indian Reservation-centric thriller is THE comic that all other noir comics are measured against. There honestly could not have been a more perfect title for this chapter of the story, because it’s gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. Before launching into an analysis of what I felt the most important aspects of this volume, I would like to say that it was nearly impossible to locate in the first place. I checked and they were sold out, when placing the order they said that it would ship within 2-3 months. Additionally, they had NO OTHER sellers at the time that were providing this comic in its used state or otherwise. So I located a completely separate online comic book seller that had one issue left in stock and I purchased it again. That’s right, I purchased it from amazon (expecting to wait) and from the separate seller I had found who guaranteed delivery within 3-5 business days. Well, 3 weeks later I had still not received the comic, and all of my queries to both amazon and the other seller were going unanswered. At this point, the most infuriating thing was the fact that I had the fifth and sixth volume sitting on my shelf, but I didn’t want to skip a section of the story. Eventually, at the beginning of the fourth week it finally came, and I was able to dive in hungrily (and then the other copy came a week later).

There were essentially five events that I found to be extremely significant in this noir comic. I’ll give you a brief overview of each.

Noir Comics Scalped The Gravel in Your Guts Carol Ellroy

Minutes before the Tragedy

First, we found out why Carol Red Crow hates her father, and how his cronies caused the death of her baby. The father of the child had stolen money from the Chief, and was trying to leave the rez with Carol and his unborn grandchild. While they were on the road out of town, Red Crow’s men pulled alongside them and began raining bullets on them (not knowing that Carol was in the car). They eviscerated Carol’s beau, and a stray bullet plunged into her womb, instantly killing the child. Since then, Carol has had no interest in a relationship with her father, and has gone off the deep end in the drug world.

Noir Comics Scalped The Gravel in Your Guts Dashiell Bad Horse

Suicide isn't the answer

Second, Dashiell Bad Horse almost kills himself. He had been reminiscing about his childhood, and a time when his father had shown up at his house completely wasted. His dad proceeded to do cocaine in front of him, and said “I don’t ever wanna catch you doing this shit you hear?”

Noir Comics Scalped The Gravel in Your Guts Drug Abuse

another bad decision, learning to use drugs

Third, Dashiell’s self destructive tendencies take their final plunge when he asks Carol (who he’s been sleeping with) to show him how to do heroin.

“Tapping into the heart of noir, Jason Aaron tells a story that is really many stories, and which all have the same ending. It doesn’t get much more inevitable than knowing the ending through most of the book – but here’s the key… you don’t care. You turn each page just as fast, maybe faster, wanting to know how each character winds their way toward that conclusion. And that’s why I love noir, and why Scalped is a work of art.” – Ed Brubaker, January 2009

Noir Comics Scalped The Gravel in Your Guts Dino Poor Bear

On his way to make deliveries

Fourth, Dino Poor Bear starts doing shady deliveries for the police in order to make money for his family. This leads him to being in various horrible situations.

Noir Comics Scalped The Gravel in Your Guts Chief Red Crow

praying for the first time in a long while

And finally, Chief Red Crow reaches a turning point and decides to take his reservation back.

Scalped: The Gravel in Your Guts is a very hard noir comic to read because every character is plunging deeper and deeper into their bad decisions and the consequences they are incurring appear to be overwhelming any possible hope for a brighter future. Jason Aaron refuses to pull any punches, and constantly brutalizes his characters. I’m reminded of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, he said of writing a story: “Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” Noir comics are written by sadists.

A parting note, R.M. Guera and Davide Furno deliver BIG TIME in every issue. I’m never disappointed.

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