Current Reviews


Criminal Vol.2 #4

Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008
By: Erik Norris

Ed Brubaker
Sean Phillips, Val Staples (colors)
Marvel Comics/Icon
Editor's Note: Criminal Vol.2 #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 6.

Part one of "Bad Night" is showing to deliver a much different beast than previous arcs in the pages of Criminal. Where we have become accustomed to seeing heist masterminds and all around tough as nails individuals, "Bad Night" looks to throw a curveball in the mix by producing a protagonist who is anything but those things.

Caught once for a federal offense while also being accused of murdering his wife, Jacob now lives a lonely and quiet life haunted by his past. He has turned into an insomniac through all of his trials and tribulations, but he has left his life as a criminal behind. He takes therapy sessions to deal with his stress as he tries to find a meaningful life, often thinking it would be better to live vicariously through his comic creation, Frank Kapra. However, one wild and very odd confrontation in a diner starts to unravel Jacob's life all over again, shooting him down what could be the worst mix-up of his life.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips strike again. There is very little to be said about this series at this point. Every single issue that comes out is fantastic and probably one of the only examples of a monthly comic that is actually worth its cover price. Each arc that Brubaker and Phillips put out I like more than the last, and if part one of "Bad Night" is anything to judge by, it's looking like that trend will continue. The strength of these stories rest on the characters Brubaker seamlessly creates; each with his own personality and motive that make every action you read on the page seem plausible through the mindsets of the characters. This is even more the case with Jacob. If I was dealt such a crappy hand in life, I would probably take the same gamble he did. After having your wife killed and being so lonely for so long, what Jacob chooses to do makes complete sense to me in a weird sort of way (though maybe this issue has proven to me that I'm due for my first therapy session). It's really a testament to Ed Brubaker's scripts that he is able to make us root for these criminals, but he does it, without fail, every month.

Then you combine Sean Phillips' awesome pencils and moody inks and Criminal comes to life. Depicting everyone, from a sleep deprived Jacob to the red-headed mystery girl, with such finesse; Phillips makes it look so easy. The whole book just oozes mood with a ton of dark blues and shades of brown. It makes every appearance of the red-headed bombshell all the more striking because she literally pops off the page, giving the reader the same sensation Jacob feels when first noticing her. Even Jacob, who seems like a down to Earth guy who got caught making one bad choice in life is drawn where you're hesitant to really believe the guy is as sincere as his surface. I really can't think of a better artist at conveying the perfect mood for these types of stories.

I have said it before, and will say it again, Criminal is one of the best values hitting comic stands. At $3.50 an issue, 50 cents more than the standard comic book, you're getting ten fold the amount of content. The main narrative is always gripping, the characters are always entertaining and mystifying, and the supplemental material is always a great read. There is really nothing to complain about with Criminal. I absolutely love this series. If you haven't tried it yet, pick this one up.

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