Editor's Note: Criminal #7 arrives in stores Thursday, December 4.
"Bad Night: Part 4"
There's a great line in this issue that perfectly captures the morally murky world of the comic, in which everybody is at least a little bit crooked. It's a bit of third-person narration about a cop that says "If there had been a body, Starr would have framed Jacob. That's how sure he was." Not only is that amusing, it's a great summation of Starr's character, showing that he takes his job seriously, but not enough to do it legally. It's only one caption in one panel of the issue, and it's a great condensation of Ed Brubaker's themes.
And that shows how effective Brubaker is here at weaving the various corrupt characters together in this ugly-yet-captivating world he has built. This final issue of the storyline sees him do so especially effectively, as Jacob's world comes crashing down around him, not without some help on his part. We've seen him degenerate over the course of the story, getting more and more desperate, and he pretty much collapses here, with the revelation that the visions of his cartoon character, Frank Kafka, that he has been having aren't simply a benign quirk, but are actually much more sinister. And there's a lot more going on, with some exploration of other characters and their motivations; it's an excellent way to finish off what has been another excellent entry in a great run of crime stories.
But while Brubaker has put together some nice plots and characters, they wouldn't be nearly as effective without the contributions of Sean Phillips, who fleshes them out beautifully, capturing the desperate expressions and body language of Jacob, the hateful arrogance of Starr, and the conflicting hurt and anger of Iris, the woman caught between them. You couldn't ask for a more perfect evocation of mood, with the shadows that fill every location and fall across everyone's face just so. It's beautiful work, and nobody else could match it.
That perfect combination of writing and art is what makes this book the best example of crime comics currently on the market. Brubaker and Phillips have nailed the particular alchemy that combines strong, believable emotion, compelling, realistic plots, and the noir mood that seems to permeate through to the very fiber of the pages. Let's hope their brief hiatus to work on the supervillain series Incognito doesn't derail it in any way.
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