Glow-In-The-Dark, Holofoil, Chromium and Die-Cut – Comics In The Nineties Weren’t All Bad – Scene of the Crime

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Scene_of_the_Crime_1The nineties get a lot of flack nowadays from comic fans, and some of it is very well deserved. Many things happened in the nineties that made it a very dark decade for the comic industry, many things we would like to forget happened at all, and some things we just can’t seem to let go of. And pouches, so very many pouches.

For as many reasons as there are to speak in hushed tones when referring to comics in that rather fateful decade, there are many more reasons to shout at the sky in praise. Each Tuesday I discuss the many things that made that decade truly a great time to be a fan. This week, I bring you another reason the nineties weren’t all bad.

The Vertigo Neo-Noir miniseries Scene of the Crime.

This 1999 four issue miniseries by writer Ed Brubaker, with art by Michael Lark and Sean Phillips, is seminal for many reasons, historic even, though not remembered by many comic fans. Which is criminal, no pun intended, as this book is the blueprint in many ways for what these three would later contribute to the world of graphic storytelling.

 

Scene_of_the_Crime_Vol_1_2Scene of the Crime is the story of Private Detective Jack Herriman, as he is tasked to find a missing person in California’s Bay Area. He is assisted by his uncle Knut Herriman, a retired crime scene photographer who runs the art gallery which acts as Jack’s base of operations.

This Eisner nominated series was an unflinching look at the dark side of the Free Love movement, and the long lasting repercussions of family secrets. There is plenty of what you’d come to expect from Brubaker’s later writing, including intrigue, deception, shots at redemption, and lots of plot twists.

He took many detective fiction cliches and spun them on their ear, crafting a deliciously devious tale of a down-and-out detective desperately trying to understand his place in the world, all while that very world crumbles around him. This is a tale that feels like classic Noir, yet never feels stale, as Brubaker brings his modern sensibility to the world of untrustworthy employers, gullible marks and beautiful yet deadly femme fatales.

c658188288086cbd5961cef383409a73This series was also the first teaming of the three creators who have been so inextricably linked since. It easily stands up to their later collaborations such as Gotham Central, Sleeper, and Criminal as definitive crime comics, each impeccable in their own right. This was also Brubaker and Phillip’s first mainstream American comic work, and in now way feels like it. This series read like the work of seasoned professionals, and still holds up today.

Brubaker’s highly detailed story, full of well realized characters, many of them just shady enough to be interesting, was a real potboiler. The action and intrigue working together with the more intimate moments to keep the pacing slow and steady, giving the reader time to immerse them-self into this dingy world of criminals and cops, mirth and murder.

The art team of Lark and Phillips expertly shone a light into Brubaker’s darkness, showing us every corrupt nook and unscrupulous cranny, beautifully rendering the illicit proceedings, breathing life into every facet of his small yet convincing cast.

Every scar told a story, every gutter serenading you with its songs of sorrow, this was a world with so many more tales to tell, and Lark and Phillips made you want to hang around, desperately wanting to hear them.

SotCIf you are a fan of these creators, yet have never read this series, right now’s a great time. Image Comics released a hardcover reissue in 2012, and I’m sure your local shop can order you one, or you can grab it off of amazon.com. These three creators have an impressive catalog of work under their belt, but it all started here with The Scene of the Crime, and you owe it to yourself to get a copy and immerse yourself in Jack Herriman’s dark alleys and shady motels.

This book, unfortunately unknown to many, yet essential to any crime comic collection, was one of the reasons it was great being a comic fan in the nineties, and next week I’ll bring you another.

 

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