I wish somebody would explain why I’m excited about this series after reading the first issue. Sure, Ed Brubaker (Gotham Central, Captain America) is scripting it, but the story so far sounds like the kind of stale heist movie the USA network would play at 2 in the morning. Leo, the washed-out son of a master thief, is running small cons to support his dead father’s senile grifting partner, until the widow of the man who died in Leo’s last big heist pulls him back into the game for one more job. Didn’t I see this as a direct-to-DVD rental at Blockbuster?
Maybe it’s the fanboy in me, but I trust Brubaker to pull this one out of the crapper, maybe on the strength of his snappy dialogue and Sean Phillips’s oh-so-pretty artwork alone. A few unique characters, such as Ivan, the retired crook whose Alzheimer’s is aggravated by his heroin addiction, promise to make this better than an average caper story, but I doubt it’ll ever attain the ultra-cool-heist-comic honors saved for series like The Losers. I’ll be keeping an eye on Criminal, though, like it’s trying to steal my wallet.
There’s a reason the cover of American Splendor #2 depicts Harvey plunging his toilet, and it’s not ironic. Like most comic covers, this is a shot of the issue’s climactic action, meant to grab the reader’s interest. There’re no killer robots, no busty women, just a middle-age Jew wielding a plunger.
While faithful Pekarheads won’t be shocked to find out the clogged toilet is in fact the crux of the book, new readers drawn in by the comic’s constant critical acclaim and rabid fan base can be excused for thinking (pause for emphasis): “What is this shit?” (Rimshot.)
Well, don’t worry: The first two issues of the new Vertigo miniseries contain multiple stories, most of which are completely plumbing-free.
In addition to a clogged toilet, we get to see Harvey looking for his adopted daughter’s glasses, making phone calls to publishers, and reading a book. Spoiler warning: He also asks a stewardess for a bag of peanuts.
Most of Harvey’s stories are similar to anecdotes your boring uncle might tell. They follow no conventional structure other than “here’s some stuff that happened one time,” and most times there’s no real punch line except “The End.” But the more you read, the more you like Harvey. As he’d be quick to tell you, he’s not particularly exciting, not even overly creative or witty, and that’s his appeal. He’s constantly casting himself as the underdog in a life as dull as the average comic-book nerd’s, but he has a gift for making a found pair of glasses or an unclogged toilet seem as satisfying as saving the world from killer robots.