By Zack Quaintance — As much as I liked Crude #1 and #2—and I did, a lot—it’s #3 that firmly establishes the book as one of my favorite ongoing creator-owned titles, up there with Saga, Monstress, and Southern Bastards. To get even more specific, it was actually this issue’s last panel that cemented it with such lofty company, a panel I will, of course, only discuss in vague terms here, because spoilers are bad, etc.
Anyway, a quick refresher: Crude is from writer Steve Orlando, artist Garry Brown, colorist Lee Loughridge, and letterer Thomas Mauer, and it's about a former Russian assassin seeking information on/revenge for the death of a son he never understood, a son who sought a new life in a far-flung oil city in Siberia (I think). When that son is murdered amid a dispute between rival oil companies, our hero heads to Siberia to do what he should have done in life—get to know his boy. And also to kick an incredible amount of ass, usually shirtless and streaked in greasy filth for a tactical advantage (I’m telling you, this comic rules).
Badassery aside, Crude’s compelling character motives and poignant imagery make it truly special. Let’s look at both of those in detail, starting with motives. Piotr (our hero) is on a dual quest, one for physical revenge, and another to know his son better. It’s the second one that’s really compelling. In fact, one gets the sense Piotr is less distraught by death—in his reality life is cheap—than by never being emotionally honest with his son, which causes him to feel culpable for the murder. Simply put, I fear more for Piotr emotionally than physically, as I learned in this issue when our hero learned details about his son during a pair of fight scenes. There’s just so much relatable father-son BS masculine angst.
Basically though, the aforementioned dual motivations are what push the book forward. An ubiquitous piece of creative writing advice is to create a character and give that character something they want, badly. The more we know what the character cares about, the more we care about the character. And the more wanting something puts the character in difficult situations, the better. That’s what Crude does so effectively (again, see #3’s final panel!).
The second strength—poignant imagery—makes Piotr’s motivations all the more visceral, the way only comics can. Every issue has had a haunting panel conveying Piotr’s mourning and regret. This issue, however, has the most memorable yet, wherein Piotr walks through a seedy alley with a ghostly coffin chained to his neck, ridden by his son who waves his arms as if it were the bomb in Doctor Strangelove. Oof.
Overall: Crude #3 exceeds previous installments, raising this book up among my favorite creator-owned titles right now, as well as among my favorite Image books period. It’s well-constructed and perfectly-executed, a bleak and deeply emotional story about damage caused by emotional distance and dishonesty between fathers and sons. 9.8/10