Bailed out of prison by his son, the aptly named Teeg Lawless realizes the huge mistake his son has made.  Stealing from the old friend of a mob boss only leads to bloody retribution, if Teeg can’t come up with $25,000 in two weeks.  So he’s back on the road, searching for that perfect score, when he discovers his best friend is dead, and his best friend’s ex-wife is in need of someone to warm her bed.  And then things really get interesting.

Criminal #1 ReviewCRIMINAL #1

Writer:  Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics, Inc.
Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 8th, 2019

Previously in Criminal: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have developed a noirish tale that has spanned eight books and garnered a legion of fans.  Deep as well as broad, this new monthly series of Criminal sees the return of Teeg Lawless, forced to work off a debt his son accrued to get him out of jail.  With the threat of his son’s execution hanging over him, Teeg revisits old haunts and flames in this opening issue of Criminal!

FOREVER NOIR

Criminal #1 is a strong opening to what promises to be a strong new series by Ed Brubaker and his art partner Sean Phillips.  Over the years, as Brubaker outlines in the back of this issue, he and Phillips have created a universe of crime under the Criminal banner, weaving together themes and characters and crime across the years.  Teeg and his sons have appeared in earlier books, and it’s great to see how the passage of years has slowed Teeg down in some ways, and just made him more of the same in others.

After Ricky Lawless rips off an old man of his diamond necklace in the opening pages (we’re treated to a neat black and white flashback as the old man, suffering from dementia, returns to his glory days and the story of how the necklace was stolen) and bails his father out of jail, Teeg Lawless is back on the streets.  Sadly, for Ricky, Teeg quickly works out whom his son stole the necklace from.  A broken arm and ribs later, Ricky learns the error of his ways, but Teeg is confronted with the bill by the local mob boss – return the necklace and pony up $25,000 as recompense for the damage done.

THE PATH TO HELL IS PAVED WITH THE SINS OF YOUR PAST

This is where the story really gets going.  Given two weeks to come up with the cash, Teeg spends some of it drinking his sorrows away, and reminiscing about the good old days, when he was as fresh as a newborn baby, and could shrug off any amount of liquor and beatings as he and his partner (and best friend) Arvin planned and executed their crimes.  Brubaker’s writing is excellent here, creating a criminal who has lost a step, trying to keep his head above water in an era that is rapidly passing him by.  There’s a real sense of melancholy in these pages, as Teeg drinks and smokes and wastes time instead of getting on with saving his son’s neck.  When he finally moves, he discovers that Arvin is dead.  In an effective scene, Sharyn, Arvin’s ex-wife nails the theme of the book – that while committing a crime is the greatest high in life, once the thrill (as with her marriage to Arvin) is gone, life is a slog to be endured.

Phillips artwork here impressively conveys the neon-soaked nightmare that is Teeg’s life.  Everything is swathed in shadow or the stale electric light of a flickering television screen.  Even the thrill of bedding Sharyn is conveyed in its tired, squalid reality, with Teeg buried in shadow after the deed.  The highlight is Teeg getting his petty revenge on Arvin, after realizing his best friend had been raking off the top of Teeg’s share.  Never has the gross sight of a man urinating on the grave of another been more comical or as hopelessly sad and pathetic as this.

BOTTOM LINE – BUCKLE UP – IT CAN ONLY GET WORSE

2019 starts with a bang with Criminal #1.  This is old, familiar ground for Brubaker and Phillips, but none of it feels tired or hackneyed.  There’s a tired humanity to Teeg that leaps off the page – even though he’s badly beaten his son, he still heads out to earn the money that will stop the mob killing the boy.  The art is strong, bringing to life the sour reality of a life of crime.  Phillips’ front cover is a highlight, and tells the reader exactly what to expect inside the book; a man with desperation etched onto his face and blood on his hands, bracing himself to fight whoever comes next.  Criminal #1 is the opening issue of what will become a monthly must buy.

As an additional bonus, Brubaker looks back at previous Criminal releases, and there is a two-page review of the first movie of the Coen Brothers, Blood Simple, one of the great crime movies of the 1980s.

Criminal #1

80%
80%
Buckle Up

2019 starts with a bang with Criminal #1. This is old, familiar ground for Brubaker and Phillips, but none of it feels tired or hackneyed. There’s a tired humanity to Teeg that leaps off the page – even though he’s badly beaten his son, he still heads out to earn the money that will stop the mob killing the boy. The art is strong, bringing to life the sour reality of a life of crime. Phillips’ front cover is a highlight, and tells the reader exactly what to expect inside the book; a man with desperation etched onto his face and blood on his hands, bracing himself to fight whoever comes next. Criminal #1 is the opening issue of what will become a monthly must buy.

  • Writing
    8
  • Art
    8
  • Coloring
    8
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About Author

Romantic. Raconteur. Kangaroo rustler. Sadly, Rob is none of these. Rob has been a follower of genre since at least the mid-1970s. Book collector, Doctor Who fan, semi-retired podcaster, comic book shop counter jockey, writer (once!) in Doctor Who Magazine and with pretensions to writing fantasy and horror, Rob is the sort of fellow you can happily embrace while wondering why you're doing it. More of his maudlin thoughts can be found at his ill-tended blog https://robertmammone.wordpress.com/

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