Noir: A Collection of Crime Stories (Dark Horse)

noir-header.jpgDark Horse offers up a collection of crime stories from the likes of Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets), Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Criminal), Dean Motter (Mister X), Jeff Lemire (Essex County), David Lapham (Stray Bullets), and others.


120 pages B&W; $12.95

(W / A: Various)


Noir: A Collection of Crime Stories is a recently released trade paper back from Dark Horse Comics. As the title indicates, it’s a hodge-podge of very short, black and white stories from some of the biggest names in crime comics, including writers like Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets), Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Sleeper), and David Lapham (Stray Bullets).

The stories in this book vary greatly, covering a wide range of styles depending on the creators involved, and most of the stories last no more than a few pages in length. A few of the stories deal with street crimes and criminal syndicates, but others focus more on violent crimes like a work place shooting spree, rape, and serial killing.

The Brain Azzarello story tells what amounts to an official back story to DC’s Batman mythology without actually using any names or images that would infringe on copyright or trademark laws. Ed Brubaker teams up with artist Sean Phillips once again for a short story that will excite fans of their best-selling Criminal series. I was pleased to see the work of one of my favorite writer/artists, Jeff Lemire (Essex County, Lost Dogs) in this book, and fans of Dean Motter’s Mister X will be pleased as well. To me, one of the highlights of the collection was "Blood on My Hands" by Rick Geary (A Treasury of Victorian Murder). This story had a touch of the classic Hitchcockian plot twist that makes you chuckle at an otherwise heinous event.

To be honest, overall I was really disappointed with Noir. Perhaps it was my own preconceived notions about what noir crime stories are about, but I did not think this book lived up to its title. Sure, the stories were of a dark nature and criminal nature, but not what I consider "noir." When I think of noir fiction, I think of the hard boiled stories of down-and-out tough guys, two time losers, and bad news dames. So when Dark Horse — the company that brought us Sin City, arguably the greatest noir comic of the modern era — puts out a book called Noir: A Collection of Crime Stories, I certainly let myself have specific expectations, and this book didn’t meet them. To be fair, most of the stories are good and entertaining, just not noir. (There are also two stories without any dialogue I just didn’t understand so I can’t really say they were that great, though they could just be above my comprehension level.)

Overall this is a typical quality product from Dark Horse Comics. If you are a fan of any of the writers or artists in this book, you will most likely appreciate their contribution to the collection. Just make sure you understand that this book uses the term "noir" very loosely and you shouldn’t be as let down as I was. | Ryan Parker


Click here for a 10-page preview featuring art by Jeff Lemire, Paul Grist, and Dean Motter, courtesy of Dark Horse.

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