Anyone interested in modern pop culture is fully aware that comics are no longer just for kids. But what some might not know is how many great crime comics there are (Full disclosure: The Dinner Detective is developing a series!!)
Crime comics aren’t celebrated the same way masterpieces in other formats are. While crime lovers are well aware of the best films, novels, documentaries, and true-crime books, great comics often fly under the radar.
If you enjoy crime, whether true or fictional, here’s a great sampler of what comic books have to offer.
From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
Jack the Ripper has fascinated fans of crime stories for more than a century, and From Hell is one of the best fictional accounts of the murders of 1888. Set during the Whitechapel murders, the graphic novel depicts true events around the murders, while fictionalizing others. It also identifies the killer and explores the specific elements of the murders.
The graphic novel has been lauded as one of the best comics of all time. Scenes can often be horrifying and disturbing, but it’s great for anyone who likes historical fiction and conspiracy theories.
Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
If you’re a fan of crime fiction and want to sample the best of crime comics, anything by Brubaker and Phillips should be on your list. But Criminal is the series they’re most known for, and rightfully so.
As the title suggests, this series focuses on the criminals, mostly various members of the Lawless family. Instead of a single storyline, the series consists of several loosely connected stories, often told in various points in time.
The series is one of the most highly praised crime comics. If you’re a fan of dark, gritty stories that feature compelling characters and that don’t shy away from mature scenes, this series is for you.
Parker Series by Richard Stark and adapted by Darwyn Cooke
Books are often adapted for the big screen, and lately more and more novels are making their way to television, too. But the Parker series of books written by Richard Stark (a pen name for Donald Westlake) and adapted by Darwyn Cook shows us just how well a comic can capture the gritty tone of a well-written crime novel.
Parker is a thief with his own moral code, is out for revenge after being betrayed by another professional criminal. There are 24 Parker novels, and four of them were adapted into comic form. Cooke’s art on the series is simply incredible and well worth the price of admission on its own.
The 4-book series is great for anyone who loves revenge stories or stories about professional criminals.
My Friend Dahmer by John “Derf” Backderf
One of the reasons we love crime stories so much is that they shed light on the mind of a criminal. That’s exactly what Backderf does in this 224-page graphic about the high-school life of Jeffrey Dahmer, years before he became a serial killer.
The novel showcases Backderf’s friendship with Dahmer during their time at Eastview Junior High School and Revere High School. The story follows Dahmer from age 12 up to but not including his first murder, which took place after he graduated.
The book shows Dahmer as a lonely teenager who was the focus of school bullies, but Backderf does not excuse Dahmer for his crimes. Instead, he paints a picture of a young man with many problems to deal with.
This is a great graphic novel for anyone interested in stories about serial killers or criminal psychology.
100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
The longest series on this list, 100 Bullets provides a unique take on how far average people are willing to go to seek revenge. Agent Graves offers a handgun and 100 untraceable bullets to use in any way they see fit.
The series exemplifies both the noir and pulp genres with deeply flawed characters and stylized (and often graphic) violence. It also delves into conspiracy theories and secret organizations that control the world.
The series is great for anyone who enjoys revenge stories and long-form, somewhat episodic storytelling.