I just finished reading Lawless, Volume 2 of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal. I very recently reviewed the first volume . I enjoyed it so much i immediately picked this one up and read it. I am not sure how often this happens, but reading volume 2 actually made volume 1 even better. Nothing in Coward feels like it is actively setting you up for the second volume, not in the way that some movies seem to devote a lot of time just advertising their inevitable sequel. It set up the world, and a portion of the history from a certain perspective, and then volume 2 clicks right into place making full use of that history and setting and builds upon it.
Lawless is a fully separate story from the first one, but it has common points and locations and characters. Things that are casually referenced in the first volume are important in this one. You don't have to have read Coward, but it builds the scope and richness of Brubaker's creation. Also, the characters in this one are very different than the characters in the first. It is really some incredible skill at work here. These are stories about a certain level of the criminal element, but everyone we encounter is a fully developed character with loyalties and perspectives and family and history and their own sense of morality. Tracy Lawless is in no way Leo Patterson. He isn't his brother Ricky or his father Teeg either. Tracy is back in town after a stint in the military. His younger brother is dead and he wants to get some answers.
He and his brother had not been close ever, but he was family, and Tracy feel like he is responsible for how Ricky turned out. He believes that the crew Ricky ran with was responsible for his death, so Tracy takes up with them as a driver. During the course of his return he pissed of the wrong people and has to deal with way more than he bargained for. There is plenty of action and suspense, but we also see a lot of flashbacks to the rough childhood that shaped his worldview and ruined his brother.
I feel like this series could be about almost any sort of neighborhood or community and still be good. The execution is just great. It's like cheers if we went home with the patrons and found out they were all thieves and murderes, only minus the lousy writing. Brubaker has a formula here that doesn't even come off like formula. When it's really good I guess we have to call it something else. Brubaker is giving us a writing class with these. I am anxious to pick up volume 3.
Oh... Sean Phillips art is absolutely perfect for this as well. (bad form not to mention the art)