Graphic Novel Review: The Bronx Kill

The Bronx KillThe Bronx Kill
Written by Peter Milligan
Drawn by James Romberger
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Lee Bermejo

$19.99 / 184 Pages / Black & White / Hardcover

DC Comics / Vertigo / Vertigo Crime


Hitting your comic book shop today is The Bronx Kill, the latest hardcover OGN from DC Comics’s Vertigo Crime line.

I haven’t had a chance to talk about these books yet and before I get into the newest one, allow me to share my thoughts on how I think this line is going thus far:

These are supposed to be crime books, right?

I mean, it says it right there on the cover: Vertigo Crime.

No one was more excited for this new line of books than I was. Crime stories? Check! Not released in issues, but as OGNs? Check! Written by notable crime authors? Check! You couldn’t ask for a new line of books more tailor made for me. And yet, I haven’t really loved any of them. A lot of my relative disappointment has been due to the fact that not since the first release, Filthy Rich, has there been a true, straight-up crime story. Every other book has featured some supernatural element to the story. My fear is that DC doesn’t think they can sell straight crime stories (sales evidence for nigh-universally acclaimed crime books like Scalped and Criminal might prove this correct). So where does that leave me? I haven’t hated or even disliked any of the Vertigo Crime books so far, they’ve all just left me various degrees of disappointed because they haven’t lived up to their name and my hopes.

(Ironically, my favorite of the Vertigo Crime books so far as been Dark Entries, which was a John Constantine, Hellblazer story. Shrug?)

The good news is I am happy to report that The Bronx Kill lives up to the Vertigo Crime billing, and there is nary a hint of the supernatural anywhere to be found. That having been said, I didn’t love this one either. There was a lot to like about it, and in the end I thought that it was a solid read, but I didn’t love it.

The Bronx KillHere’s the quick, spoiler-free plot rundown: Martin Keane comes from a long line of New York City cops. But he’s not a cop, he’s a writer. You can imagine his father’s disappointment. Martin is even a successful writer, with a well-received first novel under his belt. In order to do some research for his second novel, Martin heads to Ireland for four months, leaving his beautiful young wife behind in New York. And not one day after he returns home, his beautiful young wife disappears. And then things get really bad for Martin.

I haven’t yet put a firm grasp on what I didn’t love about The Bronx Kill, so let’s talk about the good stuff. I really liked James Romberger’s gritty, and at times messy, art. It fit the tone of this story to a tee. No one in this story is clean, everyone is hiding some dirty secret, and that is reflected perfectly in the art. Romberger also does a good job of capturing the Irish American face. Martin’s father looks like a lot of old Irish cops I’ve seen around New York.

I also really liked that interspersed throughout the story were pages from Martin’s second novel, complete with Martin’s hand-written edits. This worked for me on multiple levels. One, the story Martin was telling was really compelling, and even though we only got short bursts of the story, I was riveted. Two, the story and the edits revealed a lot about what was going on in Martin’s head during the main story. And three, as someone who does a lot of writing and editing, I love process stuff like this.

I think the reason why I didn’t love it was because I found the story to be, at times, a bit convoluted. Especially since two very important characters shared the same name. It didn’t happen a lot, but once or twice I had to remind myself which person was being referred to.

In the end, I liked The Bronx Kill. It was an interesting story that perhaps had too much going on for the sub-200 page count. If you’ve enjoyed these Vertigo Crime OGNs so far, and if you’re like me and you’ve been waiting for a straight crime story, you’ll probably enjoy The Bronx Kill.


  1. I hate when a supernatural element get introduced into an otherwise good story.  For example, the Jonah Hex movie.

  2. It’s interesting that your reactions have been similar to my own here.  I read those first two with high hopes, and found them somewhat uninspiring.  And I couldn’t understand why you’d hire the UK’s foremost crime novelist to write a supernatural story.  This latest has a promising concept, but unfortunately they’ve been nothing compared to some of the great crime ongoings at the moment, like the beyond compare Scalped and the also excellent Criminal.  I also guess that Marvel contracts will make it unlikely I’ll see my dream Vertigo Crime OGN: Scene of the Crime by Brubaker and Lark!

  3. I picked this up in the store because the premise was too good a crime concept to pass up.  I’m glad to hear it was good.  I’ve had similar thoughts about the line so far.  I’m looking forward to cracking this open in the next few days.  Also, I’m really excited for next months, which I believe features Chris Samnee art.  Oh yes!

  4. I’m glad to finally see a review that touches on this line of books on iFanboy.  Thanks Conor.  Unfortunately, my sentiments are exactly the same as yours.  Not very impressed with what has come out so far and honestly this doesn’t sound a whole lot better.  Do we know how their sales have been?  Are they going to stick around?  I love their idea.  I just haven’t loved the execution.

  5. @Crippler: I don’t know how the sales have been but they show no signs of stopping. I’ve got review copies of the next two releases sitting here on my desk. Beyond that, who knows?

  6. Well, lets hear those reviews too when you get a minute!  😉  Especially since we’ll be waiting a full year for more Criminal! 

  7. Nice review. I’ve mostly enjoyed these books on a simple pulpy level — Filthy Rich is probably my favorite in retrospect, but I enjoyed Rankin’s story quite a bit. I dig supernatural stuff, so that aspect doesn’t bother me in the slightest. 😉

    That said, I’m glad to hear the Bronx Kill doesn’t have a supernatural twist. I picked up my copy today, and I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend.

  8. Damn I forgot this was coming out…I must remember to get this soon, I absolutely love this hard boiled crime fiction.

  9. i read some of the dark entries book, but besides that i have yet to read anymore from this line. this book looks good. also looking forward to the next vertigo crime book, area 10

  10. yeah area 10 looks really promising. i just read a preview for it in American Vampire.

  11. @conor- He’s writing is third novel. So it’s pages of his third novel. The second novel is called: the Fishermen that Walk and the first: East River Elegy.