Fri
Dec 2 2016 5:00pm

5 Current Crime Comics You Should Be Reading

Superhero comic books are just as popular as the blockbuster films they inspire. So when you enter a comic store, you’re guaranteed to be bombarded with a whole host of titles featuring the adventures of heroes, from mainstream companies like DC Comics and Marvel to independent publishers. Similar to their onscreen counterparts, comics are in the middle of another golden age, with a range of diverse and quality titles. Thanks to the growth of major publishing imprints like DC Comics’ Vertigo line and independent publishers like Image Comics, there are comics for fans of almost every kind of genre—especially crime fiction. 

Of course, crime fiction is a very broad genre that can accompany a number of different stories and tones. So in this article, I’ll give you the low-down on several diverse and current crime comics, giving you a breakdown of the titles, who they’ll appeal to, and how to get caught up with each.

However, before we get into that, I'd like to provide readers who might be new to the world of comics with some tips to help you get caught up and stay current on the great books I’ll be discussing.

First, create yourself a pull list. Most reputable comic shops are happy to keep a pull list of titles for their regular customers. It’s a way of pre-ordering. Essentially, you let your retailer know which comics you’d be interested in buying, and they set aside the new issues of those titles for you when they become available. If, at any point, you decide a title is no longer for you, just let your retailer know and they’ll remove it from your pull list.

Second, immerse yourself in the burgeoning world of digital comics. It's not always easy to snag each new issue and carry them around all day—that's where sites like comiXology come in. Digital comics allow you to download your favorite issues and read them on any of your digital devices. All of the titles I’ll be discussing are available in both single issue and graphic novel form as digital comics via comiXology.


Kill or Be Killed

Published by Image Comics
Written by Ed Brubaker w/ Art by Sean Phillips

Most comics about vigilantes are about costumed heroes using their superpowers to battle crime. However, some take a more action-oriented approach by featuring a former soldier protagonist who uses their training to wage a one-man war on the mob.

Kill or Be Killed, the latest collaboration from crime comic masters Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, tackles the concept of the vigilante in a much more grounded and unique fashion that feels like Breaking Bad by way of someone like John Connelly. That’s because Dylan Cross, the protagonist of Kill or Be Killed, is the last person you’d expect to pick up a gun and start shooting criminals. 

After a failed suicide attempt, the sensitive and tormented grad student either hallucinates that he is contacted by a demon or he actually is (right now you’re not sure either way, and I like that). The demon tells him that in exchange for his life, Dylan must hunt and kill at least one person a month. So in the first few issues, you watch Dylan stumble his way into the world of vigilantism and discover that he just might have an aptitude for stalking and murdering people. Complicating matters further is the love triangle between him, his best friend Kira, and his roommate Mason.

Brubaker gives readers an incentive to buy the individual issues of Kill or Be Killed by including fun back-matter material with each issue, including essays on classic revenge films like the original Death Wish and I Spit on Your Grave. 

How to catch up: The first four issues of Kill or Be Killed, which make up the series’ introductory story arc, are available now. On January 18th, a graphic novel collection of those four issues will be released: Kill or Be Killed Volume 1. Issue #5 of the series, which kicks off the book’s second story arc, will also be released on the 18th.
 

Southern Bastards

Published by Image Comics
Written by Jason Aaron w/ Art by Jason Latour

The Eisner Award-winning Southern Bastards is set in Craw County, Alabama—a fictionalized locale where the two most popular past times are crime and football. Both are controlled by one man, Euless Boss, the coach of the high school football team. When Boss’s rule of Craw County is challenged by a returning outsider, life in the community is turned upside down.

Like Scalped, Aaron’s Native American crime series for Vertigo, Southern Bastards is about more than just criminals and the men and women trying to bring them down. It’s about an entire community, which means all types of characters will step into the spotlight—some of them funny, some of them scary, and some both. Imagine a cross between Friday Night Lights and The Wire that examines the ugly, noble, and unusual aspects of its titular adjective.

How to catch up: There are currently 15 issues of Southern Bastards, all but one of which (the latest issue, #15, which was released on November 2nd) are collected in three softcover graphic novels: Volume 1: Here Was a Man; Volume 2: Gridiron; and Volume 3: Homecoming. There’s also a deluxe edition that presents the series’ first two collections in one hardcover volume.
 

The Fix

Published by Image Comics
Written by Nick Spencer w/ Art by Steve Lieber

The Fix follows the adventures of Mac and Roy, two very corrupt L.A. cops who embark on a series of hilarious misadventures to get out from under the thumb of Josh, a pretentious, ultra-violent, suburbanite drug lord. In its first five issues, the series has featured battle bot betting, the robbery of a retirement home, and an incorruptible drug-sniffing dog named Pretzels.

If you like heist stories and darkly humorous crime tales, The Fix is the comic for you. Spencer and Lieber are masters of these kinds of tales, having done a similar type of story set in the world of Marvel Comics' superheroes and supervillains during their run on Superior Foes of Spider-Man.

How to catch up: Issues #1-4 of The Fix are available in collected graphic novel form as The Fix: Volume 1. Issues #5-6 are available as single issues or digitally. Issue #7 will be released on December 14th. 


The Black Monday Murders

Published by Image Comics
Written by Jonathan Hickman w/ Art by Tomm Coker

The Black Monday Murders is for fans who like their crime fiction with paranormal, historical, and conspiratorial twists. The story is a combination of gritty police procedurals and the historical fantasy novels of authors like Tim Powers. It follows two main characters: a New York City police detective, who’s investigation into the murder of a wealthy high financier leads to a trail of bodies and the revelation that various factions in charge of global finance are rival magical covens, and a family member of the initial murder victim. The first few issues have featured historical flashbacks to pivotal moments in history and intense interrogation room scenes.

How to Catch Up: The Black Monday Murders is still a relatively new series, so it will be pretty easy to catch up. The series’ 4th issue is available now, and the first graphic novel collection hits stores on January 25th, 2017.


Sons of the Devil

Published by Image Comics
Written by Brian Buccellato w/ Art by Toni Infante

In Sons of the Devil, multigenerational crime and psychological horror collide as Travis, an average guy, starts to discover his family ties to a deadly cult that appeared to implode several decades earlier. As the series progresses, however, Travis starts to discover that his birth family might still be out there and he’s become a target for a deadly sacrifice.

Image Comics’ promotional materials for Sons describe it as a mixture of the mood and tone of True Detective’s acclaimed first season and the underground familial connections of Orphan Black—which is a spot-on description. If you enjoy either of those shows, you should definitely pick up Sons of the Devil.

How to catch up: 10 issues of Sons of the Devil have been released so far, and now is a great time to catch up because it’s gone on a short hiatus and will return early next year. Sons of the Devil Volume 1 collects issues #1-5. Volume 2, Secrets and Lies, collects issue #6-10.

See also: Stray Bullets: Why You Should Be Reading One of the Greatest Crime Comics Around

 


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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2 comments
1. Erik # Arneson
Great list. Another crime comic I highly recommend is THE BLACK HOOD, written by Duane Swierczynski and published by Dark Circle. Tremendous.
Adam Wagner
2. AdamCWagner88
@Erik # Arneson: Stay tuned! We have a great interview with Duane Swierczynski about The Black Hood coming out on Tuesday!
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