Unlawful Good TPB – Various

2 out of 5

A Kickstarted TPB collection of crime-themed tales from various independent writers and artists.

It’s difficult putting a rating to, firstly, anthologies, and, secondly, works by very independent or amateur creators. To the former, it can seem unfair putting an opinion on a mixed bag; it’s a little easier to justify a review when it’s from the hands of a single team, but when you have 15+ combos of writers / artists / colorists / letterers, surely it’s to the collection’s benefit to shake the set up with different styles. Going over each story and rating them one by one seems exhaustive, so I try to take a top-down look: while everyone should have an outlet for their art, if you’re going to put a price on something a publish it, you’re equating a value to the work – it should hit a baseline of quality. So does Unlawful Good do that? …And that’s where we get into the indie / newbie side of the equation, as a lot of these tales are a little rough: stories try to pack in too much or hit an unearned twist; some creators are likely using some characters they’ve worked on outside of this book which don’t have context here; and pacing, in general, isn’t great. On the art front, we have a lot of mismatches – overly stylized or cartoonish looks that don’t vibe with the crime tales – and the general “flatness” that tends to be typical of lesser-experienced artists. That said, everyone in here has bios that show they’ve been putting in the work in some form or another, and nothing here is truly day-one amateur. So, yes: rough, but it hits a baseline. And some of it is definitely notable, for that matter. You do get some names you might recognize from some indie books or web comics (I bought this because Jay P. Fosgitt is in it, for example, and his tale is boss), and I definitely found a few unknowns who caught my interest – mainly on the writing front, but some art standouts as well. And the toppest-down question: does everyone stay on topic? Since the remit is just “crime,” that answer is also a yes.

So while I likely won’t be revisiting this book, and the good-to-meh ratio for me isn’t favorable, I’d still likely give it a mid-range rating for meeting the above markers. I have to knock it down a bit to note the presentation, though. The page stock is good, and there was a variant cover from Ryan Browne (!), plus some pin-ups as extras, but the independent printing is definitely visible on the pages, which are very, very digital looking, including one story that’s actually pixelated. While I like that every story has a cover page and aforementioned bios, you put a table of contents with page numbers but no creators (just the titles of the stories), and… there are no page numbers in the book itself. Then there’s the intro, which is presented somewhat sloppily, with quotes appearing not on the page they’re taken from, lacking context. And the intro claims to be a history of crime comics covering a certain period, but then exceeds that period, and doesn’t quite seem to come to a point, except to say crime comics are cool, but it doesn’t really get me hyped to read what follows.

I’m surely being overly harsh on something that is still a necessity in this industry – giving those on the indie fringes the ability to publish their work and get it into people’s hands. I’m glad this is out there, and that it hopefully gave a push to some fledgling creators. So although it doesn’t merit a reread, I’m not upset I bought it.