This fall award-winning writer Ed Brubaker, whose recent string of hits on Daredevil, Captain America and the X-Men have made him one of the hottest writers in comics, will join best-selling Marvel Zombies artist Sean Phillips for CRIMINAL, from Marvel's ICON label.
"For about a year, Sean and I have been trying to find the right project to tackle next. One day I realized what it had to be: a crime book. A pure crime book. And it was like being called home," says Brubaker. "The first book I made a name for myself on was Scene of the Crime, a mystery with Michael Lark and Sean Phillips. And while most of what I've done since has had an element of crime fiction to it, readers have always asked when I was going to get back to writing crime comics. So I figured now is that time."
Why crime? "It's an incredibly crowded comics market and my feeling is, we really don't need another superhero comic, even a superhero comic with a twist. Marvel and DC have that ground more than covered at this point," Brubaker says. "And recently, watching Warren Ellis have so much success with Fell, and seeing Robert Kirkman grow Walking Dead month after month, I thought, 'Let's take a chance and give retailers something different for their shelves.' And let's face it, everyone loves to read about crime."
To introduce retailers and audiences to the world of CRIMINAL, Brubaker and Phillips felt drastic action was necessary. "When new books are announced, you get a cover and a few random pages from the first issue," Brubaker says. "I wanted to do something that actually gave you an idea of what CRIMINAL was all about and how holding each issue in your hands was going to feel. So I thought, 'What about a teaser, a movie trailer on paper?' Then you've got something that not only gives a sample of the series, but also acts as an ad for it, and is a PDF that fans can pass around."
As for things you can't learn from the teaser, CRIMINAL will tread the line between comics like Fell and Sin City and TV series like The Sopranos, Thief and The Shield. "The main cast of the book, they're criminals. But I wanted to do something different with it here. I wanted to write a book that explored the clichés of the crime genre and turned them inside out. I wanted to have characters totally unlike the ones you're used to seeing in crime stories."
Take the first character we meet: Leo. "He's not a tough guy," Brubaker laughs. "Not at all. He just doesn't want to go to prison. He plays it smart, and tries to avoid violence. But because of the world he lives in, that's not always possible. That kind of character is incredibly rare in crime fiction, I think, that person concerned with the consequences of their actions. And because of that, Leo's story is ultimately about a man's struggle with the violence inside himself."
What else can readers look forward to in CRIMINAL? Brubaker promises every kind of crime story under the sun. "One of my intentions with this series was to create a book that could handle any and every story I wanted to tell. The cast of the book is a loose knit gang of crooks – a pickpocket, a hit-man, and a crooked cop, for starters – who each take center stage at different times. This way I can do a heist story, follow that with a revenge drama, and then a prison breakout, all while using the same characters. And as each story unfolds, the mysterious past that connects these characters is revealed, so readers can watch the puzzle of their twisted history being put together."
To that end, each issue of CRIMINAL will feature a main story continuing from issue to issue, a self-contained back-up story, and articles by Brubaker and other writers about crime books, movies and comics. "I wanted to do something to make the monthly issues really special, so I'm going to cram them from cover to cover with content. CRIMINAL is going to be well worth the cover price."
As for launching the book from Marvel's exclusive ICON line, Brubaker could not be more pleased. "It's no secret how happy I've been at Marvel. Since I've come there, my career has exploded. So the fact that they were generous enough to give me a chance at true creator-ownership from the biggest publisher in comics is just overwhelming. I intend to repay this generosity by making sure that CRIMINAL is the best damn comic I've ever done."
"If you're a fan of my past work, or only recently discovered me through my Marvel comics, and if you dug Sean's art in MARVEL ZOMBIES, I hope you'll give us a chance to blow you away with CRIMINAL. I've been giving my all to my superhero work, but with a straight crime book, I have to say, there are places I can go that heroes can't follow, a few aces up my sleeve I can hardly wait to put into play. Fall can't come quickly enough."