Written by Ed Brubaker
Drawn by Sean Phillips
Colored by Jacob Phillips
Review by KrisK
Brubaker and Phillips are probably the most famous creative duo in modern comics. They have worked on an extensive list of critical and popular hits, such as Criminal, Kill or Be Killed, and My Heroes have Always Been Junkies. Pulp unsurprisingly meets the high bar of its forerunners. Leaning into the same meditations on violence their previous work explored, Pulp eschews the black and white morality of most comics, focusing instead on a bad man trying to do good.
The protagonist of Pulp, Max Winters, writes pulp westerns in the 1930s. What his editor doesn’t know is that Max did the things he writes about, the comics merely a sugar coated version of the truth. Max robbed the rich and gave to himself, until he retired to Mexico. Decades later, Max lives in the cold, cruel city of Depression era New York. The Nazis march in squares as Hitler gains power in Europe, the writing careers loses its profitability, and Max suffers a heart attack. Suddenly aware of his looming mortality, Max runs into a Pinkerton agent with a mission: Rob the Nazis.
Brubaker uses flashbacks to slowly inform the reader of Max’s past. Max admits he committed horrible crimes in his youth. After tragedy in Mexico, Max returns to New York to drink. He meets a woman there who pulls him from the bottle and saves his life. The money from the robbery serves as a way to protect her after his death.
Brubaker wields all the skill of Scorsese, with the added benefit of making his characters likable. Max’s attempt at redemption feels deserved, even though the red could never be expunged from his ledger. The reader roots for the sot, even as he falls back into violence. The ending of the story sings true, climaxing on the perfect note.
Phillips and Phillips create two engrossing worlds, in the Old West and in the Big Apple. The reader senses the heat on the sunny desert days and the cold bite of a New York Winter effortlessly. The story looks realistic and gritty, but also beautiful. Its a harsh environment to explore and return to.
Verdict: Buy! I loved this comic more than any other I have read from the pair. This graphic novel paces perfectly, balancing a thrilling plot and character development. Nothing is left out, but not a panel is wasted.