Markley’s Fevered Brain: Three Hard Ones

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

This blog is not going to be as rude as the title might suggest. Sorry. What I am writing about today are three hardcover books from Titan Books. All three books are crime stories, in one form or another. What I really enjoyed about these three books, aside from them being excellent stories with beautiful art, is they are all very different from one another. While each is a crime story, all are worlds apart in terms of style, story, way the story is told, and the type of story. One is a traditional tough guy story about a criminal who is tougher than nails; one is spy thriller that is set in the real world and based on real events; and the third is a loose adaptation of the bestselling books of the early 1900s. So here we go, three very different books that are also very similar. Plus, all three are great!

Tyler Cross: Angola

Tyler Cross: Angola


Tyler Cross: Angola is the second hardcover collection from Hard Case Crime and Titan Books. I really enjoy these stories and I hope that Titan translates and publishes the remaining four volumes of this series into English. This is a series of stories set in the 1950s and are about Tyler Cross, a hitman who is tough as nails and will do almost anything for the right price. These stories are full color and are as gritty and dirty as you are going to find and they live up to the name Hard Case Crime. I should point out these books are for mature readers due to nudity, graphic violence, and sex. Written by Fabien Nury and drawn by Bruno, whose style is very European and reminds me of the Alex Toth school of art, work perfectly together to create a world where you feel as if you know the characters and you are overwhelmed by the environment. The story’s location is almost a character itself and the art makes you feel the oppressive heat of the deep South. This story is set in a legendary prison in Louisiana, where Tyler gets himself sent to intentionally, to do a killing, and then has to escape. As the story unfolds, there are a number of killings, crooked prison guards, cheating spouses, and grieving families. It is a powerful and well told story that flows from page to page. While the story easily fits into any number of 1970s exploitation films (which have similar plots), this book finds its own ways to be original and twisted enough not to be predictable. I love a good crime story, and this book more than met my desires for a rollicking romp. As good as the first volume, which I would also highly recommend.

The Prague Coup

The Prague Coup


Next we have another hardcover book from Titan’s Hard Case Crime line. Once again this is a reprint of a European graphic album in English. The title of this one is The Prague Coup (which in Europe is called the The Czech Coup) and it is written by Jean-Luc Fromental and drawn by Hyman. This is an interesting spy thriller set in Vienna and is a mix of true life and fiction. I am not clear on how much of this story was based on actual events but I know the characters were real and, from my research, it seems like the premise of the story, if not the details, is factual. The story revolves around an actress named Elizabeth Montagu and her adventures with writer Graham Greene and their relationship in post-war Austria. Together they are instrumental, at least in this story, in a soon to happen coup. Another player enters the story about a third of the way through known as G, who is another spy, and between the three of them you go on a dazzling trip through the nightlife and the dirty underworld of Vienna. Hyman’s art is beautiful and is almost pastel in the way he draws and the way it is colored. Just a beautiful book. I would say this story compairs favorably with Graham Greene’s own spy novels, even though in this one he is an actor and not the writer. Also, in the back of the book there is a nice biographic section discussing the real life Graham Greene and Elizabeth Montagu. While very different from Tyler Cross in look, content, and style, this book is as good, and maybe better than, Tyler Cross. Overall a joy to read.

The Wrath of Fantomas

The Wrath of Fantomas


Finally there is a third book from Titan Books, but this one, while a translation of another European graphic novel, is not part of the Hard Case Crime series. This one is again a full color hardcover and it is called The Wrath of Fantomas. It is written by Olivier Bocquet and drawn by Julie Rocheleau. The story is based, alas very loosely, on the classic French series of novels of the master crook, Fantomas. If you are not aware, Fantomas was a series of books written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestrein (they would each write alternating chapters, amazing) in France in the early 1900s and were a bestselling series of novels around the world. The stories centered on the master criminal Fantomas who would steal, kill, or commit any crime he wanted and never get caught. He would have amazing adventures and escapes and it left the audience wanting more. One of the more interesting aspects of the stories was no one ever saw or knew what Fantomas looked like, as he was also a master of disguise. (The novels are a fun read, if a bit dated). This graphic novel tells the tale of Fantomas’ final days and crime as he attempts to steal all of the gold in Paris. As with almost all of Fontomas stories, you are not really sure at the end of what happened. Is Fontomas really dead? Did he pull this crime off? (I’m not going to tell you). Did the long baffled detective finally get his man? You have to read this book to find out. This is a rip roaring adventure story encased in a crime story. There are all sorts of subplots and deceptions on all sides and there is also a fair amount of humor. The art is very European in style (although the artist is Canadian) but beautiful and perfect for this story. At times I would get confused as to what was going on and would have to go back and re-read the page. This is not a complaint, as the reason was there is so much going on at one time with all of the switch-a-roos that it was easy to get lost. This is a book you have to take your time to read as it is rich and complex, and well worth your time. It also inspired me to go back and read some of the original novels which actually hold up quite well.

This wraps it up for this time. Three wonderfully entertaining hardcovers from Titan Books. Two from their Hard Case Crime line and one from their Statix Press line. All three of these books are crime stories, but all three are very different from each other. I thought all three were great, but for different reasons. I also enjoyed how much all three were so different from one another in terms of storytelling, subject matter, and art style. I would recommend all three books to be on everyone’s book shelf. As always I would love to hear from you if you have read any of these books and I would like to know what you thought. I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. (I would also like to give a shout out to Gary B. for his informative e-mails about my last two blogs and his suggestions of things to check out. Thank you.) Everything I have written here is my words and thoughts and do not reflect the opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always,

Thank you.

USER COMMENTSOne Response

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!

  1. Philip Ashby Says:

    Hi Wayne,
    We spoke today and you were gracious enough to provide some comic industry info for my comic start up. Thanks again!
    I enjoyed your comic reviews, my question is do you have a copy of the Tyler Cross book in stock?

    Philip