Criminal #4 by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips returns to a ‘done in one’ single issue format with an excellent character study on re-occurring lowlife Ricky Lawless.
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips
Colors by: Jacob Phillips
Criminal #4, like the first issue, tells one single story between its covers. And like that excellent debut, the focus on character over crime makes it a standout. This tale is all about Ricky Lawless. Ricky is having a rough few days. He has been up for days, binging on speed given to him as payment for stealing cars. He is also looking to plan a robbery…or is he? And why is he calling his ex-girlfriend?
Brubaker uses first-person narration to get us into Ricky’s drug-addled brain and it works beautifully. Writing drug trips and druggy narration can easily fall into cliche and stereotype, but Brubaker avoids that by being subtle and by how well he knows how to write Ricky as a character by now. It’s also that love for the character that makes us care for him, despite what a piece of shit he usually is.
Not that there is no plot at all, as there are a few twists and turns that keep the narrative flowing, not to mention the usual easter eggs and call-backs for longterm Criminal fans.
Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips are in the top tier of comic art teams. The synergy and synchronicity the line work and colors have are unparalleled. Sean can capture emotion on faces like no one else, he is master at ‘reaction shots’. Jacob continues to experiment more and more with colors every issue; the use of full-color backgrounds in this chapter being a great example.
There is some fun lettering work too, especially with the occasional old-school word balloon that pops up frequently (helping to reminds us this is a comic book that loves being a comic book).
This series continues to be outstanding. If you’re not pulling this book weekly, then you are the criminal.