REVIEW: Crude #6 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, Lee Loughridge, & Thomas Mauer

Crude #6 is out 9/19.

By Zack Quaintance —  It all ends here...unfortunately. I can’t help but feel like this story deserved to be longer. Clearly, there were plans for that at some point. The solicit for Crude #6 says END OF STORY ARC, not end of series. But, alas, writer Steve Orlando’s note in the back of this comic makes it pretty clear that our story has now ended, and, really, so too does the action on the page.

Crude hit its emotional heights last issue, with a revelatory chapter in which the protagonist finally got what he really wanted all along—a better idea of who his son was and what his son’s life was like. Throughout this series there has been somewhat of a duality, a physical plotline in which the main character battles the actual villains, thugs, and conspiracies responsible for his son’s murder with his highly-skilled fists; and an unseen subconscious struggle the main character has waged against guilt he felt over being dishonest with his son about who he was.

It’s been a powerful book, to be sure. There are surface level lessons about acceptance, but those stories are ones that have been told quite frequently in recent years. How Crude sets itself apart is with the case it makes for familial honesty. The exact nature of the secrets that our father and son duo kept from each other matter less as our story progresses. Piotr is not guilty per se about having been a government tough, and when he learns of his son’s bi-sexuality he’s accepting. It’s the lack of emotional courage that kept them from being honest with each other that engendered the deep guilt and regret, not the nature of their lives.

And it’s actually this notion that makes me most regret we won’t get more issues of Crude. It’s an intriguing one rarely (if ever) tackled by such a macho story. I’d have liked to have seen it tackled at a slower pace. Orlando and the art team of Garry Brown and Lee Loughridge, however, do a great job here of wrapping up the physical action on the page, making it both satisfying and cathartic. The foil for Piotr is aggressively awful right up to the point our hero doles out his comeuppance. It’s a classic revenge plot resolution, executed to perfection by skilled creators. I just wish we could have seen more of the lead-up and aftermath, of what Piotr’s life and grieving will be like.

Overall: A cathartic and fitting end to a book that packed as much of an emotional punch as it did a physical one. This final issue felt a bit compressed, but the creative team should still be proud of the emotional journey it put its protagonist through. If you missed out on Crude as a monthly comic, I HIGHLY recommend picking it up in trade. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This was an especially strong week, with the penultimate issue of Mister Miracle sort of headlining the books I’m looking forward to. It kind of seems like that book has been going on for years (even though it launched in August 2017) and like we’ll have it for the rest of our days (the last issue is currently due out on Oct. 24...although if recent issues are an indication it's probably likely to slip).

The book has just been so so good, and we will most definitely be sad to see it go. That said, we’re also enjoying the heck out of these final few issues. Tom King is one of the best and most introspective superhero writers, and what he’s done first with The Vision and now with Mister Miracle is work that seems likely to find a wide audience for a good long while. It’s been really rewarding to follow it in monthly issues, even with these minor delays.

Oh hey, and also there’s a lot of other good stuff, too! Let’s take a look...

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

Crude #6
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
Price:
$3.99
Piotr has fought his way across Blackstone to avenge his son's death. Now he faces off against the biggest bastard of them all, and only one will walk away.
Why It’s Cool: This is the finale of a fantastic book about closure, violence, secrets, acceptance, and fathers and sons. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Creators Steve Orlando and Garry Brown, however, streamline their many powerful themes into a cathartic and powerful story.

Harley Quinn #50
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists (In Order of Appearance): John Timms, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett, Cam Smith
Colorists (In Order of Appearance): Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, Michelle Madsen, Andrew Dalhouse, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
In a special anniversary story, "Harley Saves the Universe!"-no kidding! While reading a mysterious Harley Quinn comic book, H.Q. accidentally breaks all of reality. And you know the saying: if you break it, you bought it! Now it's up to Harley to travel through both time and space to fix all the continuity errors she created. Luckily, she'll have a little help, 'cuz riding shotgun is none other than special guest star Jonni DC, Continuity Cop! Good thing, too, because if Harley fails, it means her own mom will be lost forever. Gulp! That doesn't sound very funny!
Why It’s Cool: Listen, I’m not a big fan of Harley Quinn stories. The zany superhero books (ie Deadpool) don’t usually do it for me, but this one takes a gigantic and meta idea, using it to tell a poignant story about the nature of superhero franchises, sprinkled liberally with fun deep cut nods to DC continuity. It’s a must-buy for long-time DC readers.

Ice Cream Man #7
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
"MY LITTLE POLTERGEIST"
Another sullen, sequential short! Here, a little girl's best friend comes back from the dead. Or does she? It's hard to say, ghosts being an unreliable sort.
Why It’s Cool: Ice Cream Man #6 was one of my favorite books of 2018 so far, accomplishing some really impressive feats of comic-making craft. It did, however, leaving me wondering if this book was becoming a bit nihilistic...until this issue put that question at rest. This is the most heartfelt issue yet of one of the best comics on the stands, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Immortal Hulk #6
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE GREEN DOOR" STARTS HERE! Bruce Banner is alive - and everyone knows it. Now he's hunted by the government, Alpha Flight, the mysterious Shadow Base...and the Avengers. And someone's going to find him first. But Bruce has bigger problems. Something terrible has infected him. Something with unspeakable plans for humanity. And the only one who knows about it...is the IMMORTAL HULK.
Why It’s Cool: I’ve liked Immortal Hulk quite a bit from its first disturbing issue, but last month’s Immortal Hulk #5 introduced a new villian that in my opinion gives this story a chilling new sense of direction, one that stands to make it an even more powerful book. This is, quite simply, my favorite comic at Marvel right now.

Mister Miracle #11
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher:
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
If there's one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it's: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It'll be a miracle if this doesn't blow up in Scott's face.
Why It’s Cool: Our site and many others have spent the past year or so heaping praise upon Tom King and Mitch Gerads Mister Miracle, and that’s not going to stop now that we’ve reached the penultimate issue. This is a series filled with equal parts introspection and misdirection. Expect some answers here, but also expect to wait for Mister Miracle #12 to really get a clear idea of what’s been going on.

Recommended New #1 Comics for September 19, 2018

  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

  • Batman: Damned #1

  • Burnouts #1

  • Captain America Annual #1

  • Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

  • Gideon Falls: Directors Cut #1

  • Return of Wolverine #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #8

  • Batman #55

  • Black Badge #2

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5

  • Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #3

  • Ether Copper Golems #5

  • Justice League #8

  • Lost City Explorers #4

  • Pearl #2

  • Skyward #6

  • Teen Titans #22

  • Thor #5

  • Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden #6

  • Venom #6

  • The Wild Storm #17

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Crude #5 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, Lee Loughridge, & Thomas Mauer

By Zack Quaintance — I’d like to start today by discussing Crude #5’s artwork. Garry Brown is a doing yeoman-like work on this book, creating panel after panel that brims with exactly what this story calls for in any given moment, be it a kinetic and violent pastiche or quiet emotional impact of our hero learning something heartbreaking and new about how he failed his son. Brown has been putting out killer work for a while now—from Black Road with Brian Wood to Babyteeth with Donny Cates—but, simply put, Crude is his best book to date.  

Phew, now on to the story. Crude #5 is the penultimate issue of the first arc, the place traditionally reserved for the steepest escalation in both action and consequence, and in that regard it certainly doesn’t disappoint. This is easily the best issue of Crude yet. What is perhaps most interesting about it is how much we learn about Piotr’s relationship with his murdered son, Kirilchik, which so far has been shown in brief, often only through a father’s mourning lens.

I once had a writing teacher who stressed what he called The Rate of Revelation. It’s a simple enough concept: stories live and die by how much new information we’re getting at any given moment. That’s not to say writers have to be telling us what our hero’s favorite food is all the time or something, but rather that a writer’s job is to find compelling ways to continually show an audience who these people they’ve invented are, what they’re made of, and why they matter.

And that’s exactly what Orlando’s script excels at in Crude #5: it finds new and compelling ways to constantly give us revelations about our hero, this time having the thoughts and feelings of his murdered son quoted back to him by someone who knew his son while he was alive. Our protagonist thus far has been nigh-invincible (thus far), at least when things devolve into violence, to the point I find myself unconcerned about his physical well-being. When he starts to learn key details (no spoilers!) about his son’s life—and the next panel pulls away to show how small he is in the room at that moment? Ho man, was I on the proverbial edge of my seat, and it just got more tense from there.    

Another thing Crude #5 does well is deepen its shady corporate culture plot, showing the exploitation of real people, which is thematically so relevant right now that it hurts. To say anything more would be to risk giving too much away. Lastly, I just want to note that this script has a wealth of really impactful lines, including one of my favorites: But there’s no self-respect in living just under people’s noses. Great stuff.

Overall: Crude #5 is the best issue of this book yet. More than a stage-setter for next month’s first arc conclusion, this comic is rich with revelations about its lead character and the world he’s beaten his way into. This series is career-best work for both Brown and Orlando, must-read comics. 9.5/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Crude #4 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, Lee Loughridge, & Thomas Mauer

Crude #4 is out July 18.

By Zack Quaintance — Crude #4 is yet another intense and emotional installment for one of the smartest series in indie comics. This book has a pair of clearly established plot lines—a father-son revenge story, and a meditation on late-model capitalism curtailing the humanity of individuals—and in this issue they begin to thoroughly intertwine in a way that really pushes the story forward.

Crude #4 opens exactly where the preceding issue left off, with protagonist Piotr Petrovich demanding information about his murdered son from a mob of attackers, all of whom he subsequently dispatches while incurring no greater damage than a cut on his arm. No greater physical damage, anyway. The larger stakes of the battle (as well as this book) involve what our hero learns about his son.

Being able to win fights but wanting instead to know more of his lost son is a value structure established quite well by Crude’s first three issues. Where #4 finds new ground is in its exploration of workers rights, corporations, industrial cartels, and the way individuals are controlled and debased by corrupt systems, no matter how hard they work. It also starts to explore the generational gap that has taken hold in society's across the world: the father as a good trusting soldier, the son as someone striving for change. This may be a reductive, but Crude is sneakily timely as hell.

In one particularly effective scene, a shady besuited executive rages that a single man is causing him so many problems, a man who is effectively acting outside established structures. It’s a telling metaphor, one Orlando and Brown have previously hinted at but kept in the background, wisely devoting earlier issues to vesting the audience in the more poignant father-son story.

One of the things I liked most about Crude #4, though, was the growth for the hero (or the promise of growth soon). It’s the best sort of character development: painful yet exactly what he wanted. Piotr has essentially been broken down of his own volition, continuing to learn that he didn’t know his son at all. Now begins the fascinating work of watching how he responds.

I’ve made this (likely simplistic) comparison before, but the emotional complexity of this comic is a bit like a Russian novel. At the same time, Orlando and Brown are clearly seasoned comics creators, because the usual qualities of great visual storytelling in chapter format are very much present: action, cliffhangers, callbacks to earlier issues. For me, it's this mix of fundamentals and meaning that make Crude so compelling.

Overall: Crude continues to have one of the most compelling hero's journeys in all of comics, one that blends gritty action with emotional devastation and subtle commentary. This fourth issue again ups the stakes in ways I could not have predicted. 9.0/10

For more about Crude, read our previous reviews of Crude #2 and Crude #3.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top New Image Comics of 2018

Image Comics  has established itself as the most prolific publisher of creator-owned comics.

Image Comics has established itself as the most prolific publisher of creator-owned comics.

By Zack Quaintance — The last two years or so have felt relatively quiet at Image Comics... relatively. The company has released many wonderful oddities and gems, as always, but there hadn’t (arguably) been as many books that do things like sell movie rights before issue one (Descender), land creators TV deals (Bitch Planet, Deadly Class, Sex Criminals, etc.), or land their trades in hip indie bookstores (Monstress, Saga, Southern Bastards, Wic + Div).

That, however, changed in 2018, with Image Comics launching more hits last year than they have in possibly any other 12 month period. It’s been truly impressive, so much so that we felt obligated to update our top new Image Comics of 2018, including a bit about why we like each book as well as its odds for longevity. While it remains to be seen which (if any) will crest two dozen issues and land on end caps at Powell’s Books or The Strand, these comics are still all well worth a look today via our top new Image Comics of 2018.

Let’s do this!

Special Note: This page has been updated from an earlier piece—Top New Image Comics of 2018 (So Far)—to include comics released in the latter half of the year.

Top New Image Comics of 2018

Three issues in, Steve Orlando and Garry Brown are doing career best work on the haunting father-son story,  Crude.

Three issues in, Steve Orlando and Garry Brown are doing career best work on the haunting father-son story, Crude.

Crude by Steve Orlando & Garry Brown
Crude was one of my favorite books from Image in 2018, but it unfortunately has now ended. Steve Orlando is one of my favorite writers and like his superhero work, Crude’s plotting was complex and layered, rewarding readers who kept up while shrugging at those who didn’t. What set it apart from Orlando’s other writing is that behind the violence and severe badassery was a heart-rending father-son tale. Artist Garry Brown (Babyteeth, Black Road) did fantastic work, using truly haunting imagery to depict egret and anger plaguing our protagonist.
Odds to Run for Years: Zero. This one has, sadly, ended, but is now available in trade.

Bitter Root
Writers:
David F. Walker and Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorist: Rico Renzi and Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Although this list is alphabetical, I’m happy to be starting with Bitter Root, which I’ve been waiting for since writer David F. Walker and Sanford Greene prematurely-ended their excellent run on Marvel Comics’ Power Man and Iron Fist. This book seems to have grown from the ashes. It’s a monster-hunting book set during the Harlem Renaissance that involves questions of race. It’s smart, well-done, and brought to life with phenomenal art. I love it and hope it runs for a very long time.
Odds to Run for Years: 95 percent.

Crowded also succeeds via the all-important badass attitude factor.

Crowded
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
As I wrote in our Top Comics of 2018 full list, Crowded has emerged from a number of challengers to rank as one of the best near-future horror stories in comics. The book accomplished this by extrapolating a startlingly-realistic idea (crowdfunded assassination bounty hunting apps) with as taught of a buddy-drama/chase thriller narrative as we’ve seen in any medium. This is a white knuckles story, both in terms of what’s happening on the page and what it has to say about the direction of society.
Odds to Run for Years: 90 percent.

Die
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Die joins a number of recent stories in different mediums aimed at capitalizing on nostalgia for role-playing games like D&D. Where it stands apart, however, is with the tone of its sensibilities, which are dark, dark, dark. I suspect that ultimately the real villain of this modern fantasy story is time, and what a scary idea that is. Also, Stephanie Hans art is worth the price of this one alone. Although it’s only two issues old, Die is an easy choice for our Top New Image Comics of 2018.
Odds to Run for Years: 100 percent.

Gideon Falls  seems like a lock to become a long-running book.

Gideon Falls seems like a lock to become a long-running book.

Gideon Falls
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
As I wrote in my review of Gideon Falls #1, it feels like Jeff Lemire has spent his career dancing around the horror genre, dipping a toe in or dangling a foot, without jumping all the way in. Well, that stopped with Gideon Falls, and the result is one of the top new Image comics of 2018. While doing promo for the book, Lemire—who teams with long-time collaborator Andrea Sorrentino, one of comics’ grittiest artists—said he re-worked these characters from early sketches he did before he was published. It also, however, feels like while re-working these characters, Lemire was watching Twin Peaks, as the book’s first ar is clearly an homage to that show. Now in its second arc, however, Gideon Falls has grown into its own unsettling thing.
Odds to Run for Years: 100 percent.

Ice Cream Man
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Ice Cream Man is a unique book within our list. While the others involve continuous serialized narratives, this comic is a horror anthology series, tied together by cameo appearances from the titular awful ice cream man. It’s a smart commentary on our everyday lives, and the concepts of each issue vary wildly. One may deploy three separate narratives with little dialogue, while the next might be a straightforward horror story with a clear protagonist. The variety just one small part of why this book lands on our Top New Image Comics of 2018.
Odds to Run for Years: 75 percent.

Infinite Dark by Ryan Cady and Andre Mutti is a smart, psychological mystery story.

Infinite Dark
Writer:
Ryan Cady
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: K. Michael Russell
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Infinite Dark is an incredibly smart and immersive comic set in the bleakest possible time I can think of: after the heat death of the universe. It features a sparsely-populated cosmic arc in which a forlorn head of security must investigate a rare murder mystery on the vessel. Steeped in deep and thoughtful psychology, this is special sort of comic doing impressive (if unpleasant) things with its tone. Check out our interview with Infinite Dark writer, Ryan Cady.
Odds to Run for Years: 80 percent.

Middlewest
Writer:
Skottie Young
Artist: Jorge Corona
Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Like Infinite Dark, the next entry on our Top New Image Comics of 2018 list is also a forlorn one. Middlewest from Skottie Young and Jorge Corona is set among the windswept plains of inner-America, re-imagined here in a way that emphasizes the inherent magic of a lonely region. Corona’s imaginative work and Young’s emotional writing have brought to life a striking and heartfelt, character-driven tale.
Odds to Run for Years: 75 percent.

Oblivion Song  might be Robert Kirkman's best work yet.

Oblivion Song might be Robert Kirkman's best work yet.

Oblivion Song by Robert Kirkman & Lorenzo De Felici
Robert Kirkman’s most famous work, The Walking Dead, was adapted into a television mega hit, giving him the fan base and cachet to basically guarantee prolonged runs for new titles. Oblivion Song is no exception, and as I understand it, Kirkman and artist Lorenzo De Felici completed 12 issues before even announcing this book’s existence. And Oblivion Song lives up to that level of swagger. Launched the same day as Gideon Falls, this book is arguably Kirkman’s best (although I have a soft spot for Invincible). Everything about it is deeper and more nuanced than The Walking Dead or Outcast, yet still accessible. Simply put, this book is build for a long haul.
Odds to Reach #20: 100 percent, in fact, I think they’re probably already done with it.

Self / Made
Writer:
Mat Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
One of the biggest surprises on our Top New Image Comics of 2018 list is Self / Made, which debuted with a creative team I was entirely unfamiliar with. It also debuted, however, with a rock solid first issue that ends in an intriguing twist. This may be cheating a bit since the second issue came out in 2019, but the follow up to the debut builds on this book’s concept even further, raising questions about the very nature of our existence and the role of creators and gods. This book is smart, stylish, and intriguing as all get out. I highly recommend it.
Odds to Run for Years: 80 percent.

Skyward is one of the Top New Image Comics of 2018.

Skyward
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
As I’ve been telling any comic fan that will listen, Skyward has done basically everything well throughout its earliest issues. This is a polished book, one that confidently knows exactly where it’s going, taking slow but effective steps to get there. As I’ve written in Skyward reviews, this book’s greatest strength has been the careful pace at which its creators disperse information. Too many #1 issues fall into a trap of dumping tons of exposition too soon. Skyward—which has a fantastic concept involving the world losing a dangerous amount of gravity—gives just enough info to stay oriented without feeling clunky. It’s all very impressive.
Odds to Run for Years: 80 percent.

Read more about Image Comics on our comic book Reviews Page.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes
fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Crude #3 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, Lee Loughridge, & Thomas Mauer

Crude  is a violent and complex revenge story, driven by a father-son relationship.

Crude is a violent and complex revenge story, driven by a father-son relationship.

By Zack Quaintance — As much as I liked Crude #1 and #2—and I did, a lot—it’s #3 that firmly establishes the book as one of my favorite ongoing creator-owned titles, up there with Saga, Monstress, and Southern Bastards. To get even more specific, it was actually this issue’s last panel that cemented it with such lofty company, a panel I will, of course, only discuss in vague terms here, because spoilers are bad, etc.

Anyway, a quick refresher: Crude is from writer Steve Orlando, artist Garry Brown, colorist Lee Loughridge, and letterer Thomas Mauer, and it's about a former Russian assassin seeking information on/revenge for the death of a son he never understood, a son who sought a new life in a far-flung oil city in Siberia (I think). When that son is murdered amid a dispute between rival oil companies, our hero heads to Siberia to do what he should have done in life—get to know his boy. And also to kick an incredible amount of ass, usually shirtless and streaked in greasy filth for a tactical advantage (I’m telling you, this comic rules).

Badassery aside, Crude’s compelling character motives and poignant imagery make it truly special. Let’s look at both of those in detail, starting with motives. Piotr (our hero) is on a dual quest, one for physical revenge, and another to know his son better. It’s the second one that’s really compelling. In fact, one gets the sense Piotr is less distraught by death—in his reality life is cheap—than by never being emotionally honest with his son, which causes him to feel culpable for the murder. Simply put, I fear more for Piotr emotionally than physically, as I learned in this issue when our hero learned details about his son during a pair of fight scenes. There’s just so much relatable father-son BS masculine angst.

Basically though, the aforementioned dual motivations are what push the book forward. An ubiquitous piece of creative writing advice is to create a character and give that character something they want, badly. The more we know what the character cares about, the more we care about the character. And the more wanting something puts the character in difficult situations, the better. That’s what Crude does so effectively (again, see #3’s final panel!).  

Garry Brown is doing career best work in  Crude , especially as it pertains to the conceptualization of the imagery.

Garry Brown is doing career best work in Crude, especially as it pertains to the conceptualization of the imagery.

The second strength—poignant imagery—makes Piotr’s motivations all the more visceral, the way only comics can. Every issue has had a haunting panel conveying Piotr’s mourning and regret. This issue, however, has the most memorable yet, wherein Piotr walks through a seedy alley with a ghostly coffin chained to his neck, ridden by his son who waves his arms as if it were the bomb in Doctor Strangelove. Oof.

Overall: Crude #3 exceeds previous installments, raising this book up among my favorite creator-owned titles right now, as well as among my favorite Image books period. It’s well-constructed and perfectly-executed, a bleak and deeply emotional story about damage caused by emotional distance and dishonesty between fathers and sons. 9.8/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Crude #2 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, & Lee Loughridge

Crude No. 2 by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, and Lee Loughridge is a rare second issue that builds expertly on its predecessor while also standing alone as a rewarding read. On the surface, this issue is the story of a turf war between a dominant oil company in a far-flung industrial Russian city and an upstart rival, with an old man who has a history of violence  interjecting himself into the fray.

I’m not doing the plot justice (read this book for yourself—I strongly recommend it), but it’s equal parts bleak and compelling, heavy on ethos and fast-paced, graphic storytelling. It's very good. When evaluated as a continuation of Crude No. 1, however, this issue becomes a deeper and more rewarding part of a larger narrative about a man solving a mystery, seeking revenge, and potentially atoning for his life's chief mistake.

One of the qualities to Orlando’s work that puts him among my favorite comic book writers (dating back to his excellent 2015 Midnighter) is how he refuses to dumb anything down for readers. There’s a promise I’ve found made by Orlando comics, something along the lines of If you work to immerse yourself in this story, to really focus and engage with what I’m doing here, I will greatly reward you for your efforts.

And this new creator-owned book from Image Comics is his strongest work to date. In the first issue, Crude showed itself to be a story of juxtapositions of two lives, one of violence and another of domestic bliss, all within its first four pages: two of which showed our protagonist, Piotr, at breakfast with his family, and two of which showed him violently thrashing enemies.

One problem I see at times within modern comics is a somewhat gratuitous use of time jumps: Then. Now. Five Minutes Past Then. Next Thursday, etc., but Crude uses non-linear storytelling to great effect, thereby justifying every time jump. Crude is a story that must incorporate mistakes made through time—not so much the violence of Piotr’s past but rather his decision to keep it hidden from his son—and it uses juxtaposition to make those mistakes all the more powerful. The non-linear time elements in this book are, in other words, essential.

There two panels, which appear in both  Crude #1  and  #2 , are at the crux of its story.

There two panels, which appear in both Crude #1 and #2, are at the crux of its story.

Crude's artwork also bears mention. The nature of our plot is such that there’s a significant amount of interiority. It’s basically a story of a man grappling with regret, which is a difficult conflict to convey in comics, but Brown and Loughridge’s art does an incredibly effective job working in tandem with Orlando’s scripting. In issue No. 1, when Piotr first sees the body of his son, the book excels at showing rather than telling, deploying panels that alternate between the body and the man’s reaction as he hears earlier dialogue echo in his mind, asking “this your son?” and we realize he’s weeping not only for his loss but because his own life of secrets prevented him from ever truly knowing his only boy. Powerful stuff.

Overall: Crude No. 2 introduces a framework for the challenges and mystery our protagonist must fight to overcome, and it does so in a suspenseful way that doesn’t sacrifice any of the interiority that made No. 1 so compelling. Orlando, Brown, and Loughridge are really building something special here, something that feels powerful as well as painstakingly deliberate. 9.3/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.