If you’ve been hearing about Pulp, a book brought to us by the dynamic duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, being on all the 2020 “Best of” lists of the year and wondering what all the fuss is about, then you’ve come to the right place. 

Once again, this collaborative dynamo team that I have raved about, most recently in my review of their tremendous book from 2019, Bad Weekend, is bringing their very best characters, story, and atmosphere to this book, that while only 72 pages long feels much longer with the amount of character and story development that goes on. In a story that goes from the Old West to the 1930s from pulp writing to punching Nazis, readers will wonder just how it will all turn out for the Red River Kid and Max Winters.

It all seems like Max Winters has stepped into a story of his own creation.    Max writes pulp novels, all based loosely on his life in the wild west where he got into his fair share of hot water situations. Now, he uses those stories as the basis for his Red River Kid tales, and he’s starting to tell the stories of when he settled down, had a family, and lived in Mexico. Unfortunately, that’s not what his editor wants, and dejected and angry he makes his way back home. But, in the subway he punches some Nazis, has a heart attack, and is set upon a path that he hopes will redeem his entire life and let him die, as he will inevitably have another heart attack, in peace. It was supposed to be an easy peasy armored car stick-up, but when he runs into a familiar face from his Old West days, his course changes and sets them both on a path they won’t be able to escape.

Jeremiah Goldman is a blast from Max’s past, and their “chance” meeting on the streets of New York—not by coincidence, mind you—sets them both on a new beginning, a reflection which is noted a few times in this story.  The idea of beginnings—who gets them, how, and why, and how can you make one happen?  Jeremiah was one of the Pinkertons, guys on the “good” side of the law who hunted The Red Rock Kid, aka Max, and when he started noticing those Red River Kid stories and how familiar they were, he figured he’d finally got his man.  But, what he wanted was something different – a partner this time.  A partner to help him pull a robbery against people who deserved it – the Nazi, Fascist influtrating group that was in New York.  Of course, things don’t go as Max thought they would, but what’s the fun in a predictable pinch?  

Once again, as with other Brubaker/Phillips collaborations, the story is brought to glorious, intricate, watercolor-esque, sepia brilliance through the illustrations of Sean Phillips with colors by Jacob Phillips. What’s magnificent is the breaking of illustration styles between the wild west scenes and the modern 1930s panels. The wild west is seen through a pop-art illustration and coloring style with blocked colors highlighting our hero and spotlighting darkness and shadow as our heroes ride horses, rob stagecoaches, and visit saloons. Meanwhile, our heroes in the 1930s, while also existing in the shadows, they are the shadows of intrigue, violence, and redemption. Shadows that we choose for ourselves to just try and make it through. Will Max get his happy ending? Did the Red Rock Kid?  It all depends on what happy means to Max and you, dear reader.

Pulp is just a great story full of deceit, love, mystery, and possibly redemption. The illustrations and coloring perfectly compliment the story that travels in time and across mediums in a way that is perfectly presented.  Older teens and adults will want to read this story again and again just to see what’s different, what stands out this time. A beautiful and timeless story that will stay with readers long past that last shot.

By Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
ISBN: 9781534316447
Image, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 17+
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Traci

    | She/Her

    Traci has been a graphic novel selector and collections coordinator for kids and teens in libraries in Arizona and Oregon since 2005. She served as the chair of YALSA's Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee, and served as a member of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens blogging team. She previously coordinated the Oregon Young Adult Network’s Graphic Rave list, OYAN’s yearly list of the best graphic reads for teens. Traci is a member of ALA, YALSA, and GNCRT. And, she achieved her greatest dream ever by serving as a judge for the 2019 Eisner Awards.

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