It's been a while since I've read one of these trade paperbacks reprinting a story arc from Ed Brubaker's great noir series CRIMINAL. LAWLESS is the second volume, and the title is not only a good description of the protagonist, it's also his name. Tracy Lawless is a young man gone bad who had to choose between being sent to prison or joining the army. It was an easy decision for him, and for a while he found a home for himself in the military before he got in trouble there, too, and wound up in a military prison.
Now Tracy's younger brother Ricky, who also drifted into a life of crime, is dead, and Tracy breaks out of prison and returns home to find out who killed him and settle the score. In order to do that, he has to assume a fake identity and infiltrate the crew of professional thieves Ricky used to run with. His quest is complicated because one of those thieves is a beautiful woman who was in love with his brother . . .
Of course that's just one of the dangerous complications, which comes as no surprise to those of us who are fans of hardboiled, noirish crime fiction. LAWLESS may be a graphic novel, but it's written and plotted like a prose novel that could have been published by Gold Medal or Dell or Lion Books. Brubaker writes great dialogue, and the artwork by Sean Phillips goes perfectly with it. From its violent, enigmatic beginning to its downbeat ending, LAWLESS makes for compelling reading. I have several more of these CRIMINAL collections, and I have a hunch I'll be dipping into them soon.