Ed Brubaker, the architect of the death of Steve Rogers and the rise of Bucky Captain America, and the brilliant noir artist Sean Phillips (of Wildcats and Marvel Zombies) have been the team on not one but three amazing comic series about good guys gone bad. Or is it bad guys gone good? Or is it good guys gone bad gone good again? Anyway, dizzying lack of moral alignment is what makes Criminal, Sleeper, and Incognito three of the best noir comic series ever created. In Criminal, the team tells individual stories. They take five or six issues to focus on one “bad guy” whose faced with a problem that goes against the criminal’s moral code. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from Humphrey Bogart, only with more
blood and profanity. Perfect for an ongoing HBO series, since their “seasons” are so short—you could come back each run with a completely new cast. Then, in Sleeper, Brubaker and Phillips dive into the Wildcats universe to tell the tale of a super-powered spy who becomes a double-agent, then a triple-agent, then a free-agent, and so on. The comic takes the super-powered trope to a new level, mixing noir and neorealism with the kind of “capes are silly” approach pioneered by Alan Moore and taken to pornographic heights by Garth Ennis. Back in 2009, Sam Raimi and Tom Cruise were looking at making a movie version of Sleeper–dunno where that’s gone off to . . .
Then, there’s Incognito. Incognito has a similarity to Sleeper, in that we see a pulpy take on the world of superheroes. In short, the story is about a super criminal who goes into witness protection, gets bored, and becomes a superhero. And, of course, uncovers a shadowy conspiracy. Because no Brubaker story is complete without one. The series was great, but it ended too soon. Now, Brubaker and Phillips have announced a return to the series next year (under Marvel’s creator-owned line, Icon). And now I read that there is a Fox TV series based on it currently in development, as well as movie version. I have no idea if they’re interrelated, or if one is contingent on the other not going forward, but I have to say: Both sound good to me.