Criminal, by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips, goes monthly with an excellent, moody, violent and dark double-sized debut issue from Image Comics.
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips
Colors by: Jacob Phillips
Teeg Lawless is back in town. But he finds himself in more trouble than ever, thanks to his delinquent teenage son—and this time, fists and bullets may not be enough to solve his problems.
The world of Criminal has always been where Ed Brubaker excels the most. And having it monthly is just about the best fucking news any comics fan could hear going into 2019. Criminal is without a doubt Brubaker’s seminal work and now the scribe is going to be able to dive right in twelve times a year and drag us by the neck into that wonderful and twisted, noir world.
This issue stars Teeg Lawless, one of many reappearing characters in Brubaker’s tapestry. Teeg’s son Ricky (who has also popped up before) seems to have ripped off the wrong item from the wrong guy and now Teeg has to come up with some cash fast or else. This leads Teeg back to some old places and acquaintances (most familiar to fans); and of course, one big score. It’s a classic set up that could be a cliche but Brubaker’s too good of a writer and just elevates the whole thing. The narration, omniscient, hard-boiled, and delivered matter of factly makes just about everything read so fucking tough and hard it feels like granite.
And yet despite all the grime and grit, there is still an air of soulfulness and an element of tragedy that haunts these characters and makes you connect and care for them. Hell, you even start to root for them.
Brubaker’s love for the medium as a storytelling tool is evident also as he sneaks in little details that only four color fiends will really notice (like an occasional old school thought balloon).
It’s also great to see Brubaker continuing his use of heavy editorial and supplemental pieces at the end of his comics. Here we have a nice summary of all the Criminal graphic novels for those new to this world and a fantastic essay on the film Blood Simple by regular contributor Kim Morgan. It’s a complete package of a reading experience that works because it’s a monthly.
No one draws a comic like Sean Phillips, and when it’s a crime/noir comic you are going to get comic book art perfection. Phillip draws faces that look haggard and real. His layouts and panel structure are neat, but the feel of the line work is what gives them that handcrafted and grimy look.
Throw in Jacob Phillips’ moody colors and you have the perfect pair to pull off this job. Jacob’s palette also adds a layer of freshness and experimentation that at times gives certain pages and panels a subtle, surreal vibe. It’s beautiful.
It’s simple, don’t sleep on this book. A new Criminal book has always been well worth the wait, and now we are getting one monthly. Just pull the fucking trigger and buy this book.