cover image Bad Weekend

Bad Weekend

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Image, $16.99 (72p) ISBN 978-1-5343-1440-5

The lauded crime comics team of Brubaker and Phillips (My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies) take a meta approach with a hard-boiled mystery set at a comics convention. Cartoonist Hal Crane, “a collection of bad habits and worse moods,” is traveling to an event clearly based on the San Diego Comic-Con to receive a lifetime achievement award, and his former art assistant Jacob, now a detective, is hired to escort him. The two are quickly embroiled in a mystery involving stolen art, murder, and decades of industry feuds. Set in 1997, when the comics speculation boom of the ’90s was going bust and comic books were at a sales peak but a creative nadir, the period’s perfect for a tale rife with creative frustration, seedy backroom deals, and betrayal. It helps that the creators know the behind-the-scenes workings of the comic convention inside and out, which lends verisimilitude, as does the semifictional comics history they tell, a blend of reality, gossip (did an inker really get work by procuring sex workers for his editors?), and pure imagination. Phillips’s art looks heavily photo-referenced, but poses and layouts that would be stiff in a lesser artist’s hands fly by as realistic, while still loose and lively, in his practiced lines. Brubaker proves again that, as in the words of legendary creator Jack Kirby, “Comics will break your heart,” as he digs under the colorful surface of his setting and touches on injustices within the industry. (July)