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A Review By: Booklist

The following review by Gordon Flagg appeared at Booklist Online in August 2008.

Once one of the medium’s most popular genres, crime comics all but vanished after implementation of the censorious Comics Code in 1954. But as comics expert Gravett shows in this massive black-and-white compendium, many foremost comics talents continued turning out tales of miscreants and murderers. The generous page count allows Gravett to include not only the expected choices, such as Dashiell Hammett’s 1930s newspaper strip Secret Agent X-9 and Will Eisner’s masked crime fighter the Spirit, but also any number of gratifying surprises. The genre’s heyday is represented by such leading figures as Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Plastic Man creator Jack Cole, and masterful innovator Alex Toth, as well as two stories written by Mickey Spillane, whose career started in comics. The most unexpected entries are two written by superstar scripter Alan Moore, one by Sandman writer Neil Gaiman, and one starring underground artist Charles Burns’ masked wrestler–private dick El Borbah. In-the-know aficionados will prize a true rarity, Bernie Krigstein’s last hurrah before leaving comics for the fine arts, an adaptation of TV’s 87th Precinct.

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