Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comic valentine

I don't read graphic novels.

Well, that's a bit of a stretch. I don't read many graphic novels. Once I get past Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, very little of it interests me, although I'm open to discovery.

While graphic novels are just that -- novel length and graphic (in all senses), I grew up on short-form comic book stories (and wish I had kept some of those old ones, like Fantastic Four No.1 and Hulk No.1 (he wasn't even green back then!) and Green Lantern No.1. I could retire on the comic books that got thrown away).

But I especially liked the detective comics: Secret Agent X-9, The Spirit and others collected by an older cousin who kept his black-and-white treasures stashed away in a tall cardboard barrel inside the kneehole of an old desk. We'd pull the barrel out, pop open the top and and spend hours poring over them, marveling at a heroic close call or checking out the gams on some sweet dame (preposterously pretentious at a very young age) and enjoying the mayhem that ensued.

So I was very happy to see The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (Running Press, $17.95), a collection of noir comics that spans the genre from the early 1930s to the present time. Here is a Dashiell Hammett-written Secret Agent X-9 adventure and Will Eisner's Spirit, along side Ms.Tree, Mike Hammer and drawn by a stable of artists from Jack Kirby to Paul Grist.

This is a great collection brimming with dames, deception and dark alley doings. And as in life, even noir heroes can encounter a grisly end.

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