cover image Murder Me Dead

Murder Me Dead

David Lapham. Image, $19.99 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-63215-079-0

Murder-mystery noir comics are as old as the medium itself, with many pedestrian outings blunting the edge of the genre, but a handful of modern creators like Darwyn Cooke, Frank Miller, and Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips have produced contemporary classics that rival the great noir comics. Add to this list Lapham, not only for his Eisner Award-winning Stray Bullets, but this knife-edged crime tale back in print after a decade. Quintessential noir protagonist Steven Russell goes on the run after his wife's suspicious-looking suicide, pursued by police, private detectives, and his own conscience and dark past. It's a credit to Lapham's skill as a writer/artist that this nearly 15-year-old story feels reads sharp and fresh. His portrayal of realistic facial expressions, body language, and kinetic action elevate the solid story. Lapham uses black skillfully in his panels, drawing the eye at a controlled and subconcsious speed across the page, and his pace is comparable to a fine noir film: much of the final chapter is portrayed in two large panels per page, increasing the speed and visceral impact in the revelation of the book's central murder. Its skillfully subverts the clich%C3%A9s and stereotypes of crime saga comics with a slow-burning fuse of dark, deftly choreographed violence and existential dread. (Aug.)