Image Comics; $24.99

Whether serialized or in an original graphic novel format, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips just about always deliver, but the second book in their new Reckless series takes it up a notch even for them.

In the first volume in the series, we met Ethan Reckless. Like their work in Criminal, The Fade Out, and other efforts, the world their characters inhabit is murky at best and outright dangerous on average. Considering Brubaker and Phillips’ track record, the surprise is that Reckless is a good guy.

He’s a former radical, former FBI agent, tagged as one part repo man, one part private eye. He’s a surfer, works out of a shuttered movie theater, and has just a few friends. When he takes a job, he generally gets results, even if they’re not the intended ones. “Your trouble is his business, for the right price,” as the saying goes.

This second tale is set four years after the first one. Things are basically going well for Ethan Reckless, but being Brubaker and Phillips that certainly was never going to last very long. When a missing young woman is seen in the background of a B-movie, it puts him on a very rough path of discovery.

“Rough” may be the true key word for this story. Not the craftsmanship – it’s superb, as always – but the gravity of the story itself. There is nothing salacious or gratuitous in the delivery of the tale, but its implications are harsh. And so are its effects on Reckless.

A powerful tale, one that will still surprise fans of their other work.

–J.C. Vaughn