It may be hard to believe Teeg Lawless’s son plays D&D, but Ricky Lawless is a many-layered teenager. After spoiling a session with his friends by remaining true to his character’s Chaotic Neutral nature, Ricky and his friend Leo spend a night on the town. What do they get up to? Find out in our Major Spoilers review!
Writers: Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colors: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 21st, 2019
Previously in Criminal: In a series that whips back and forth in time and overlaps previous issues, Criminal #7 features Teeg Lawless’s son, Ricky. After Teeg shacks up with Jane and begins to plan a new heist to help fund her extravagant lifestyle, Ricky has to deal with the impact Jane has on his father. While the Teeg assembles a crew, Ricky and his friend Leo learn some things about each other.
Criminal #7 maintains the high quality of previous issues in this arc, with a good blend of character development and introspection, with just enough activity to stop it becoming an exercise in navel gazing. Writers Brubaker and Phillips again give us a penetrating insight into the lead character, this time Ricky Lawless, putative badass and teenage son of Teeg Lawless.
I suppose the key to understanding Criminal #7 is the game of Dungeons and Dragons that opens the issue. Ricky, whose had a spell in juvie, has lost his taste for the game, but still turns up to play alongside his friends. Ricky has enough anger in him, related mainly to his father, that he’s prepared to stick hard to his character’s Chaotic Neutral alignment, even if it is to the detriment of the fun of the game.
Chaotic Neutral is an apt description of where Ricky finds himself. Not quite tipping over into complete nihilism, but on his way towards stepping irrevocably over the line. Breaking into cars to steal cash, convincing junkies to by liquor for himself and a friend, throwing bricks through the window of a cop car. Small league stuff, but Ricky is clearly building up to something worse, as is evidenced by his question at the end of the issue.
Given Criminal #7 overlaps with the previous issue, as that did with its predecessor, Brubaker and Phillips give us an insight into how Ricky views his father’s relationship with Jane. Ricky is disgusted with his father – gone seemingly is the hard man who gave Ricky a sense of place and power – now his father is the charmer, splashing cash to keep Jane happy, uprooting them all to new, fancier neighborhood. Ricky’s reaction to hearing his father call him champ is one of the funnier highlights of the issue. Ricky hates his father, but he wants the old Teeg – the kneecapper, the killer, the hard man – back. You quickly gain the sense the remaining issues are going to tread into darker and darker territory.
DIVISION OF JOY
Sean Phillips art and his son Jacob’s coloring work continue to be a highlight of the series. There’s full page three quarter profile of Ricky, seemingly lost and bereft, his face In half shadow, with the glare of the nightclubs behind him, that do more to describe his current state than a full page of writing ever could. As with most issues in this series, a lot of the action takes place at night, washed with neon and streetlights, lending mood and atmosphere to proceedings. You could complain about the stiffness to some of the characters, but that would be nitpicking just for the sake of it.
As always, Brubaker’s afterword is interesting reading, giving an insight into the creative process for this issue, and revealing the entire series, sub-headed Cruel Summer, will run for 12 issues. The movie review this month is Ford Francis Coppola’s Rumble Fish, which gives you a sense of where the inspiration for teenage angst may have come from.
BOTTOM LINE: THE APPLE DOESN’T FALL FAR FROM THE TREE
Criminal #7 covers all the bases you’d expect from the series – tight writing with excellent characterization, lovely, evocative artwork that works as hard as the writing to bring mood and atmosphere, and a compelling storyline that seems headed to a bleak conclusion.
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With its overlapping storyline harking back to previous issues, Criminal #7 adds another layer to a dense storyline that offers readers a discerning look at a compelling cast of characters whose moment of truth is fast approaching. While knowledge of what has gone before is useful to add to the enjoyable experience of this issue, Criminal #7 is a decent jumping on point for new readers, as the main event – the next heist, is just around the corner.