True Detective returns on HBO for its second season this Sunday. There’s an understandable buzz surrounding the premiere. The first season was a stellar achievement in television. Show creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga constructed a complex story told in three time lines all hinging around a central mystery. Everything from the show’s cinematography to its cast was absolutely stunning, and fans are still discussing what it all meant one year later.
Season two will focus on an entirely different tale, shifting the setting from Louisiana to Southern California and replacing Hoodoo elements with political intrigue a la Chinatown. However, the tone and style of the anthology series will remain consistent. True Detective isn’t defined by Lovecraft references or Nietzsche quotes. It’s defined by fully-realized characters, examinations of moral ambiguity, and the dark, gritty mood that can only be summoned by the best of mysteries.
We’re in for another ten thrilling weeks of Pizzolatto’s breakout hit, but there’s no reason to wait a year between seasons or even a week between episodes. This style of story can be found in a variety of excellent comics being published right now. Here are five of the best comics on shelves today, all of which could easily fit into the world of True Detective.
1. Southern Bastards
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jason Latour
It’s hard to imagine a story that better mirrors the mood of the first season of True Detective than Southern Bastards. Set in Alabama, rather than Louisiana, this series has delved into the darkness and corruption that haunt small town America. Football, BBQ, and murder are the staples of Craw County, a town with a long, dark history. Jason Aaron continues to provide new perspectives in each new arc, rather than focus the story through a central character. Their histories are told both in the past and present, revealing how good intentions came to naught and opportunities turned to ash.
Jason Latour has provided Southern Bastards with an inimitable style. It is just as dirty, mean, and raw as the characters and events it portrays. A limited color palette emphasizes red above all else, focusing on the blood and passion that drives the story. There are few better comics being published today than Southern Bastards and none that explore themes of crime, corruption, and the destructive power of history as well.
You can buy “Here Was A Man”, the first volume of Southern Bastards, here or at your local comic store.
2. High Crimes
Written by Christopher Sebela
Art by Ibrahim Moustafa
You can’t get much further away from the South than the setting of High Crimes: Mount Everest. However, this comic shows that no matter how far you may go, darkness will follow you. High Crimes details the story of Zan, an ex-Olympian and addict laying low as a guide in the Himalayas. The discovery of a body on Everest leaves her trapped in a game of cat-and-mouse with government operatives that will leave a lot more bodies on the mountain before it’s over.
High Crimes is the exciting digital first debut from two of the most notable rising stars in comics: Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa. They tell the story in two halves, focusing on Zan in the present and the man whose body may have doomed her more than 20 years earlier. The series has developed into an intense examination of both character’s addictions and inability to escape their past. Not only is it a top-notch crime-thriller, but it’s also only 99 cents an issue with a beautiful hardcover coming from Dark Horse in July.
You can buy High Crimes #1 here or pre-order the complete series at your local comic store.
3. The Fade Out
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Just like the new season of True Detective, The Fade Out takes place in Los Angeles, but 60 years earlier. It’s set at the end of the Golden Age of Cinema and in the prime of American noir. Murder, conspiracy, cover ups, and child abductions are all part of the landscape here as well, but instead of being shrouded by the poverty of Louisiana, they’re covered by the exorbitant wealth of Hollywood. This combination of elements is so potent that the series already threatens to rival classics like L.A. Confidential (the novel or the movie).
This is no surprise coming from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips though, the all-star team of crime comics. They understand what makes these stories tic on every level. From the broad strokes of the plot to the finest details of Phillips’ panels, The Fade Out is a masterpiece in the making with an irresistible mystery at its heart.
You can buy the first volume of The Fade Out here or at your local comic store.
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Justin Greenwood
This Portland based series presents a wide variety of cases from the perspective of private investigator Dex Parios. Murder and mayhem are not as prevalent as in series like Southern Bastards or High Crimes, but the character work and intrigue are every bit as good. Greg Rucka excels at writing mysteries and stubborn detectives, as evidenced in series like Gotham Central and Whiteout, and he does it here very well. Each case is well crafted and reveals new layers to Dex and her friends.
Previous volumes in the series have been drawn by Matthew Southworth, but Justin Greenwood has taken over for the newest adventures. He provides a slick take on Bridgetown, naturally embedding the cities geography into car chases and events. It’s bound to appeal to local residents as well as those who wish they lived there. Stumptown is a classic detective series with a lot going on beneath the surface of its hard-nosed protagonist.
You can buy “The Case of the King of Clubs”, the newest volume of Stumptown, here or at your local comic store.
5. Burning Fields
Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel
Art by Colin Lorimer
Burning Fields incorporates a lot of the horrific imagery and supernatural elements that fans of the first season of True Detective responded so strongly too. The series is set in the oil fields of Iraq during the American occupation. There a discharged veteran and Iraqi investigator must discover who is murdering and mutilating bodies at the drill site. There's no Yellow King here, but there are definitely monsters, whether or not they're human.
The comic is beautifully (or, rather, horrifically) drawn by Colin Lorimer who presents scenes and characters saturated in darkness. The gruesome mystery of the comic is given just enough detail to repel readers without sending them running to the hills. Burning Fields is a fearsome combination of mystery and horror that ought to delight fans of the stranger aspects of True Detective.0comments
You can buy Burning Fields #1 here or at your local comic store.
Are you excited for the return of True Detective? What are some of your favorite comics set in this dark genre? Share your thoughts in the comments below.