As much as I enjoy Ed Brubaker's writing in CAPTAIN
and other superhero comics, I think his best work is to be found in his on-going series of noir graphic novels, CRIMINAL. The most recent on, THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT, with art by Sean Phillips as usual, pushes the standard for this series even higher. AMERICA
The narrator, Riley Richards, grows up in a small town in the Fifties and Sixties, hangs around with his pals, and has to decide between two girls, sweet girl-next-door Lizzie and beautiful, sophisticated, rich Felix. Yes, it's all very much like Archie Andrews, and Phillips even draws some of the sequences in that style, very effectively, I might add.
But those sequences are flashbacks, because the main story is set in the Eighties, when Riley finds himself trapped in a loveless marriage, swamped by gambling debts, and driven by desperation to murder and acts even more despicable.
THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT is about as bleak as it can be as Brubaker tightens the screws on Riley, and he saves his last kicker for the final page. It's subtle enough that if you haven't been paying attention all the way through, you might miss it, but when you figure out what's going to happen, it's very effective.
Those of you who enjoy crime comics really should check out CRIMINAL. Each story is a stand-alone and is collected in its own trade paperback, although there are some connections between them that reward reading all of them. THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT is the sixth volume in the series. Highly recommended.