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A Review By: Grovel

Grovel is the UK-based web site of graphic novel news and reviews.

When it comes to descriptive book titles you might think that publishers are prone to injecting a little hyperbole, especially when they’re describing something as ‘mammoth’. If you’ve had the pleasure of handling this weighty tome, however, you’ll be well aware that in this case it’s no embellishment – this book is authentically enormous.

Presuming you can lift it, ploughing through the pages is a joy. There’s a wide range of stories on offer, from superstar comic creators across the generations. While the oldest story in here dates back as far as 1934 and others are nearly as old, there’s few that feel old-fashioned – it’s the hard-boiled, gritty, noir nature of war-time and post-war hardship that’s influenced crime comics ever since. And while the book is crammed with some of the big names of modern comics (Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Jack Kirby to name but three), it’s the stars of the past, working in the crime genre for much of their careers, who really nail it.

Which brings us round to Paul Gravett, a superstar comics scholar whose research brings this crucible of crime comics out of dusty, forgotten archives and into our unsuspecting hands. A true connoisseur of comics, Gravett’s breadth of knowledge and discerning taste is a treasure in itself.

As he mentions in his introduction, this book is well pitched at readers who love noir crime comics like Sin City and Criminal, and have an interest in the kind of comics that inspired them, some of which you’ll find in this glorious retrospective cross-section of the genre from the last 70 years or so.

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