Tag Archives: jacob phillips

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Pulp is the anti-Fascist Western We Need Right Now

“Shoot to win can feel so bittersweet. But you can take what you can get ’cause there ain’t no glory in the west.”

-from “No Glory in the West” by Orville Peck
PULP is the next OGN from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips - The Beat

Thanks to their work on titles like Criminal, The Fade Out, Kill or Be Killed, and many others, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Philips’ collaborations have been some of my favorite comics to seek out on the stands. And their new Image Comics graphic novella, Pulp, is no exception. Set in New York in 1939 with occasional flashbacks to the turn of the 20th century, Pulp chronicles the last days of Max Winters, an Old West gun fighter and outlaw turned writer of pulp Westerns for the fictional magazine Six Gun Western. Brubaker and Phillips with amazing spot reds from colorist Jacob Phillips blur fact and fiction and show and steadily build up that Winters’ character, the Red River Kid, is a barely fictionalized version of his younger self.

While Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips riff on crime fiction tropes in their usual manner and add a dollop of the “one last job” story, I would consider Pulp to be a straight Western even though it’s predominantly set in New York. This mostly comes from the way Max behaves, especially in crime settings. (Car chases are definitely more stressful than horse ones.) However, Brubaker and Phillips aren’t merely content to do their take on this classic American staple of the Western, but instead recontextualize the genre to be about resistance against those who would exploit others (Basically, class warfare.), especially Nazis and fascists.

Image from Pulp

They lay the breadcrumbs for this early on as Max stands up for a young Jewish man at the subway station even though it leads to him getting his ass kicked, having a heart attack, and being robbed of his entire freelance paycheck that he was squirreling away to buy a house in Queens for him and his partner, Rosa. This scene sets up Max as a champion of the marginalized as Phillips and Phillips’ visuals convey the righteous fury in his soul as he stands up for what’s right even if no one helps him out when he takes a beating. The fury extends to the salty frankness of his dialogue as he tells the young anti-Semite, stating “Everyone here’s had enough of your crap”. Max is like if Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven had a social conscience, and this informs all of his actions in the narrative, especially in the second half of the book when he decides to fall in with an old foe. And not just any old enemy: a Pinkerton.

Even though they had semi-heroic beginnings as bodyguards for President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, Pinkertons become synonymous with strike-breaking and cloak and dagger operations to uphold the status quo. Historically, they tracked down the Jesse James Gang and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid so they’re a good fit for baddies in a Western and are still doing private security to this day as part of the firm, Securitas AB. So, basically, Brubaker and Phillips set up the former Pinkerton, Goldman, who catches Max trying to do a robbery in broad daylight as an untrustworthy fellow with a bit of a bitter edge. Sean Phillips never draws Max and Goldman as buddy buddy arranging them in opposition to each other with Goldman as a savvy operator and Max as a cowboy stuck in city alleys instead of the open plains of Wyoming or another Western state.

This visual depiction extends to Ed Brubaker’s plot as what Max thinks is just good old-fashioned stage coach robbery (But with Nazis instead of cattle barons.) turns into something a little more complex as Goldman wants to hit at the names and accounts of Nazis, not just their cash. Of course, Max thinks this is all bullshit and his captions the 1939 Old West gun fighter version of ACAB. (“Why would I trust a fucking Pinkerton?”) However, Brubaker and Phillips drop in Goldman’s backstory that he had a good job doing accounting work for Henry and was laid off because he was Jewish, which makes him more of a sympathetic figure, and also sets up Max’s final showdown where he takes guns a-blazing vengeance against the fascists and on behalf of his Jewish partner, who was wrongfully murdered, even though he (and we) know that this will end in his demise. But he has that house in Queens for Rosa so he has nothing left to lose.

Image from Pulp

For better or worse, Max’s actions in both the Western past and New York present of Pulp are consistent. He always fights on behalf of folks that are exploited by those who have the power in society whether that’s settlers and robber barons or Jewish people and Nazis. He even advocates for ownership of his character Red River Kid (Pretty much self-ownership.) and going in a new creative direction with the character instead of retreading the same plots, but as anyone who has read about the history of comics that’s a futile battle. There’s a real Martin Goodman/Stan Lee vibe from Max’s editor Mort and his nephew Sidney, who’s a fan of Max’s Westerns and will do his job for a much cheaper rate. These scenes and Max’s sense of justice lead to more anger and chest pains and is what leads to him to picking up gun again and becoming an outlaw.

Image from Pulp

In Pulp, Brubaker and Phillips create a strong through-line between the exploitation of capitalists and fascists whose actions are insulated by people “just following orders”. Max is very aware of the banality of evil, and that’s why his final showdown is at German Bund beer hall and not against a veiled stand-in for Adolf Hitler atop a zeppelin. He has put his affairs in order, has set up his partner Rosa for life, just wants to avenge the death of his unlikely friend, Goldman, and put some goddamn Nazis six feet under. Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips up the intensity of the visuals in these final pages with plenty of guns, red, and abstraction while Ed Brubaker’s narration sums up what Max thinks of himself before his death, namely, “We weren’t heroes. We were killers.” Even though Max has good values, it was his quick trigger finger that kept him alive in the Old West, and it’s deteriorating heart that gets him in the end in a bar in New York surrounded by swastikas. But, at least, he went down shooting.

Pulp is a fantastic transposition of the Western to the big, modern city as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips apply outlaw-turned-pulp-writer code of fighting for the downtrodden to championing Jewish people against fascism even before the United States declared war on Nazi Germany. Max’s actions and ideals strike a chord in 2020 where the President of the United States himself called Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people”, and they run rampant both in the street and online. With his vulnerability, tenacity, soft spot for Rosa, and heart for justice, Max Winters is definitely the character find of 2020, and Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Jacob Phillips do a wonderful job making a Western story both exciting and socially relevant.

That Texas Blood Debuts with a Sell-Out and Getting a New Printing

Breakout hit That Texas Blood by critically acclaimed Criminal colorist and first-time solo artist Jacob Phillips and writer Chris Condon is being rushed back to print in order to keep up with overwhelming demand. The new neo-noir crime series is perhaps best described as Southern Bastards and True Grit meets Breaking Bad and puts a contemporary spin on the Western genre.

That Texas Blood kicks off when the search for a casserole dish leads to a dark and tense confrontation on Sheriff Joe Bob Coates’ 70th birthday. 

Coates has always lived in Fort Lehane. He’s always been in Ambrose County. It’s always been in his blood. It’s a Texas thing. But the crimes don’t stop. And they don’t get easier.

For some reason… they keep getting worse. And worse. And… Well. It’s Texas. And Joe Bob is tough. Maybe he’s tough enough to fight it. To last. It’s in his blood, after all. That Texas Blood.

That Texas Blood #1, second printing (Diamond Code APR208642) will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, July 22. That Texas Blood #2 Cover A by Phillips (Diamond Code APR200289) and That Texas Blood #2 Cover B by Duncan Fegredo (Diamond Code MAR200030) will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, July 29.

That Texas Blood #1, second printing

Review: That Texas Blood #1

That Texas Blood #1

A retiring sheriff, a small Texas town, one last case. It’s something out of a dime Western, or if you want to get more literary, a Cormac McCarthy novel. However, these are affectionate comparisons as That Texas Blood #1 is an engaging writing and line art debut for Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips, who previously colored Sean Phillips’ recent work on Criminal. The comic provides a window into 70 year old Sheriff Joe Bob’s world of Ambrose County and the relationships that he has cultivated over the decades while raising the stakes and hooking you for the next installment.

Joe Bob is an incredibly likable protagonist. He’s sweet, has a dry sense of humor, and might be a little afraid of retirement. (And by extension, death.) He reminds me a lot of my late grandfather, who was a sheriff in rural Virginia, mischaracterized as being a Texan in a true crime documentary, and even transported dangerous criminals to California. (The evidence was the throwback California Angels hat he gave me.) The unique character traits that Condon and Phillips give him like talking to his wife on the police radio instead of a cellphone, living off service station beef jerky make him three dimensional not a B-movie archetype. And the cherry on top is how open Phillips draws Joe Bob with the exception of the demented dream sequence, which is all reds and blacks. It’s safe to say that That Texas Blood is a well-colored comic.

With the exception of an extended and slightly fucked up anecdote that adds a darker shade to Joe Bob’s character, Chris Condon doesn’t make the “first published comic book script” mistake and finds a balance with Jacob Phillips’ visuals. His dialogue is natural and captures the mood of each scene from the easy banter of Joe Bob and the gas station clerk to the off-panel domestic conflict between Ruth and Ray with the walls of their house hiding Ray’s abuse, but the beer cans outside revealing his alcoholism. Even though That Texas Blood gets exciting and lives up to its title towards the end, Condon and Phillips are more concerned with creating an atmosphere. This is a slow-paced world where a sheriff can clog up the police walkie talkie with birthday party planning and seamlessly incorporate. However, like that Yankee singer Springsteen one said, “There’s a darkness on the edge of town”, and Phillips handles it masterfully with slightly out of frame shots of newspapers in the opening sequence of the comic before exploding in the flashback and at the end of the comic.

Speaking of the opening scene of That Texas Blood #1, Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips are remarkably economic and using seven panels to set up both their protagonist, Joe Bob, and the setting of Ambrose County. It’s a quiet place with muted colors although the orange sky is a few shades away from blood and could be connected to the “nightmare” that Condon mentions in the narration. The book walks a tight rope between domestic tranquility and unrestrained violence with the plot edging a little bit more towards the tranquility in the early going. They create an emotional connection between the reader and Joe Bob, his town, and good sense of morals. (So far.) However, that could all be coming down.

That Texas Blood #1 is a fantastic debut crime comic from Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips. Phillips’ art and colors are stylish and add extra feeling and tension to Condon’s script. Together, they craft a world and protagonist that I want to know more about, and that’s what you want out of a first issue. And as a cherry on top, they turn the casserole dish, which is ubiquitous in Southern culture, into an amazing MacGuffin.

Story: Chris Condon Art: Jacob Phillips
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Blacking Out Takes You on a Dark Noir Ride

Blacking Out

Comics industry veteran Chip Mosher and legendary artist Peter Krause have launched the Kickstarter for Blacking Out, a 56-page graphic novel presented in the hardcover European album format. Colorist Giulia Brusco, letterer Ed Dukeshire, and designer Tom Muller join the pair in this sucker-punch tale of a disgraced ex-cop, Conrad, unraveling an unsolved murder during Southern California’s fire season.

In Blacking Out, Conrad follows a lone clue—a discarded crucifix—to unravel the death of Karen Littleton, whose body was found amid a blaze that scorched 10,000 acres. Conrad’s search leads him to clash with the victim’s father and prime suspect, Robert Littleton, as well as hostile former colleagues on the local police force. All the while, Conrad combats his alcoholism and fading faculties. 

Though known most in the comics industry for his work in marketing, publishing, and editorial, Mosher has been developing Blacking Out for years. In late 2016, Mosher recruited Krause to bring these self-immolating characters to life in a tight one-and-done graphic novel. The finished book will include gorgeous endpapers and spot gloss on the case wrap, making Muller’s weathered logo pop against the inferno consuming the SoCal horizon, as illustrated by Peter Krause.

A print set of 11 cinematic lobby cards featuring characters from Blacking Out will be offered as rewards. These lobby cards are illustrated by acclaimed artists Francesco Francavilla, Eduardo Risso, Mirka Andolfo, Dan Panosian, Emma Ríos, Jacob Phillips, Patric Reynolds, Ryan Kelly, Jamal Igle, and Elise McCall.

Other rewards include an original drawing from Peter Krause, with the top-tier reward being a tour of L.A.’s most notorious crime sites with Mosher. The Kickstarter campaign lasts until June 24, 2020.

Jacob Phillips and Chris Condon Spill That Texas Blood in May

Critically acclaimed Criminal colorist and first time solo artist Jacob Phillips and writer Chris Condon break onto the scene with a brand-new ongoing series—That Texas Blood—launching from Image Comics this May.

Like Paris, Texas gut-punched by No Country for Old Men, this mature neo-Western crime series kicks off when the search for a casserole dish leads to a dark and tense confrontation on Sheriff Joe Bob Coates’ 70th birthday. 

Sheriff Joe Bob Coates has always lived in Fort Lehane. He’s always been in Ambrose County. It’s always been in his blood. It’s a Texas thing. But the crimes don’t stop. And they don’t get easier.

For some reason… they keep getting worse. And worse. And… Well. It’s Texas. And Joe Bob is tough. Maybe he’s tough enough to fight it. To last. It’s in his blood, after all. That Texas Blood.

That Texas Blood #1 Cover A by Jacob Phillips (Diamond Code MAR200029) and That Texas Blood #1 Cover B by Sean Phillips (Diamond Code MAR200030) will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, May 27.

That Texas Blood #1

It’s Over My Dead Body this January from Jay Faerber, Simone Guglielmini, Gigi Baldassini, and Ron Riley

From the acclaimed Near Death comic book series universe—and featuring  many of the same characters—comes the all-new, standalone graphic novel thriller Over My Dead Body by Jay Faerber, Simone Guglielmini, Gigi Baldassini, and Ron Riley, with a cover by Jacob Phillips. It will hit stores this January 2020 from Image Comics.

In Over My Dead Body, a prison warden’s daughter has fallen in with a separatist militia, and the warden’s only chance to rescue her is his most dangerous inmate: the notorious contract killer, Markham. Markham claims that a near-death experience convinced him to atone for his past sins, and to start saving lives instead of taking them. This may be Markham’s one last shot at redemption. But is he ready to die for that shot? Over My Dead Body is a fast-paced, pulpy thriller perfect for fans of Jack Reacher and John Wick.

Over My Dead Body trade paperback (ISBN: 978-1-5343-1494-8, Diamond Code OCT190056) will be available on Wednesday, January 15 and in bookstores on Tuesday, January 21.

Over My Dead Body

Preview: Criminal #8

Criminal #8

(W) Ed Brubaker (A) Jacob Phillips (A/CA) Sean Phillips
In Shops: Sep 25, 2019
SRP: $3.99

Teeg Lawless is on his way to living the high life, planning the kind of score you can retire on… but only if nothing goes wrong. The story of the last days of series favorite Teeg Lawless continues as BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS continue to deliver the best monthly comic on the market!

And as always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.

Criminal #8

Preview: Criminal #7

Criminal #7

(W) Ed Brubaker (A) Jacob Phillips (A/CA) Sean Phillips
In Shops: Aug 21, 2019
SRP: $3.99

The best monthly comic on the market keeps the hits coming! Young Ricky Lawless and Leo (from CRIMINAL, VOL. 1: COWARD) take the spotlight this issue, as the epic story of the death of Teeg Lawless continues! As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.

Criminal #7

Review: Criminal #5

Criminal #5

Criminal #5 is the beginning of a new storyline, “Cruel Summer,” a perfect starting point for new readers. Dan Farraday, private detective and skip-tracer, comes to town looking for a dangerous woman. Taking place in 1988, the issue kicks off the last days of Teeg Lawless. Lawless is a character who is at the center of so much of Criminal in various ways. But, writer Ed Brubaker has crafted an issue and series you don’t need to know that.

Brubaker has crafted the perfect example of what makes this series work in Criminal #5. For those who have never read an issue, you can pick it up and enjoy its detective noir. It’s a simple story of a private investigator attempting to track down a woman. But, for those who have read the series for a long time, it becomes so much more by the end. It’s enjoyable on multiple levels.

But Brubaker also makes sure to focus on the characters, not just the familiar tropes. Farraday as a character has depth that’s revealed as the story progresses. At first he’s the simple detective. He’s then revealed to have had a rough life which partially drives him now. Then, his experiences in Vietnam drives home his motivation for what he does.

The art by Sean Phillips and colorist Jacob Phillips as usual is amazing. It uses all of the familiar visual queues we’d expect from this sort of story. There’s a cool and sexiness about it all mixed with some danger. Just engrossing visuals to match an engrossing story.

Criminal #5 is as amazing as I’d expect. It continues one of the best comics out today and that’s not even counting all of the extra material included in the issue. This is a perfect issue to hop on and check out what you’re missing and long time readers will be excited to see where this goes.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Color: Jacob Phillips
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Criminal #4

Criminal #4

A breathtaking single-issue story finds Ricky Lawless caught in the grip of violence and double cross after a robbery.

Even the worst issue of Criminal is so far ahead and above so much of what’s out there in comics today. Criminal #4 is the weakest of the issues for this new series released so far but it’s still so beyond entertaining and well written. A standalone issue, it follows Ricky Lawless tweaking from drugs and falling further into a mess he’s created.

Writer Ed Brubaker, artist Sean Phillips, and colorist Jacob Phillips craft an issue that anyone can pick up and enjoy but at the same time ties into the greater tapestry that is, and has, been woven. We see a criminal, a drug user, out of control, and it’s not until much later in the comic that everything truly impacts and comes together.

Instead, the trio of creators focus on the spiraling insanity that comes with a bender including paranoia and more. It’s a story of tragedy on multiple levels and also of someone trying to do good but resulting in nothing but bad.

Like so much they’ve done with other characters, Ricky isn’t completely bad. We’re presented with a somewhat sympathetic character who goes from a junkie to someone trying to do some good. But, that good is actual shit sucking in all who get in to his orbit. Every small detail has another side to it creating a world of gray.

As always, the single issue contains back page art and articles you won’t find in the trades delivering an extra that’s not needed when a story is this quality.

Criminal #4 is a depressing comic in so many ways but it also is gripping an done of the best comics of the week.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Color: Jacob Phillips
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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