Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME



is the first volume in the Criminal series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It is a dark crime novel with lots of shooting, drugs, and police chases. It reads like Grand Theft Auto on the page-- except they're not stealing cars. The main character of coward is Leo, whose father was a professional pickpocket. Leo started pickpocketing when he was eight years old and that is the life he has always known. He isn't necessarily happy with this life though, and he is terrified he will end up in jail like his father. He is taking care of his father's friend, Ivan, who is addicted to heroin and serves as a daily reminder for what he could end up like.

I'm not a huge fan of crime, murder, police chases, etc, but I really enjoyed Coward because I think Leo has very normal fears for being a criminal. Above all I think he wants to live a different life from his father, and a lot of characters in the comic book express the same sentiment, but he just doesn't know how because it's easier to do what you know than to go off on your own to try something new. This is also shown through his friend Greta, who is involved in one last heist to make some money before she and her daughter move away for a fresh start.

After reading The Walking Dead I was thrilled to see such great narration. We get the story from Leo's perspective, which is extremely reflexive and self aware. There is also great, believable dialogue that falls back on a few old favorite crime phrases, but is overall enjoyable to read. The drawing style was good, but I didn't feel it was necessarily totally unique. I listened to a conversation recently where someone said comic books are usually one or the other, good narrative and okay art, or great art and okay narrative. If I'm comparing The Walking Dead and Coward I would say The Walking Dead has great art and Coward has a great narrative. It all just depends on what you want. Apparently I like a great narrative more though (big surprise) because

I'm giving Coward a B.

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Coward + TIME