Leo is ice while his best friend Ricky Lawless is fire-and as we soon discover, control and unpredictability together are a dangerous pairing.  So, when Leo plans a heist of a local arcade Ricky tags along, but of course when there’s a lawless involved trouble soon follows.  What happens when Ricky and Leo take down the arcade?  Find out in a new Major Spoilers review!

Criminal #9 ReviewCRIMINAL #9

Writer:  Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher:  Image Comics, Inc.
Price: $3.99
Release Date:  October 23rd, 2019

PREVIOUSLY IN CRIMINAL:  Crooks, con artists, detectives with a heart of iron, violence, gunplay, death and disaster – Criminal has had them all.  Now, while Teeg Lawless and his buddies ready themselves for a hugescore, their offspring plan their own, which involves an appearance by Ms Pac-Man!


As writer Ed Brubaker says in his afterward in Criminal #9, this is the first time readers have seen the character of Leo since he appeared in 2006. It is interesting to see this re-introduction of an old character considering we have spent some time looking at Ricky Lawless and his father Teeg, two men who couldn’t be more different from Leo and his father.  Not only that, but while Leo is like his father – precise, careful, looking for where the bear traps are laid, Ricky is also like his father – a loose cannon with a hair trigger temper and an appetite for destruction.  The comparison of each pair is illuminating.

Criminal is a startling fusion of character and crime, by a pair of the most talented creators in the industry today.
One of the underlying themes of Criminal #9 is how a father and son interact under extreme pressure. Leo’s father has planned his heist for some time and it is coming to fruition – but the tensions are beginning to show.  Leo’s regrets his father’s distance, as he devotes a great deal of mental effort anticipating every possible problem that might arise.  He goes to the extent of blocking his own brother – Leo’s uncle – from joining the heist because his drug addiction makes him unpredictable, and thus a liability.  This results in Leo deciding to go off on his own and rob the local arcade. We see how Leo plans the score, demonstrating that he isn’t that much different from his own father.  However, any heist needs more than one, which is where Ricky Lawless comes in – which, as we know, means the best-laid plans won’t go as anticipated, as we witness towards the end of the issue.

Once again, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips have created a wonderful issue of Criminal. It is not always easy to root for characters that exist on the wrong side of the law, but as we watch Leo and Ricky go about the break-in, we gain a greater appreciation and understanding of both of them, particularly for Leo.  Like everyone, these characters aren’t wholly bad.  They aren’t wholly good, either, but a mixture that makes them so much more interesting to read.

Leo is a young man who presents as calculating, but underneath, he’s a ticking time bomb who finds himself holding a pistol to a man’s head at the end of the issue.  When things go bad, we do see Leo’s resourcefulness, but his actions indicate someone whose control over themselves is beginning to crumble.

Once again, Sean Phillips’ artwork is a highlight of Criminal #9.  He brings a sense of realism to this crime story – his characters have a sense of depth and reality that other comics would kill to have.  His line work is impeccable and his character design once again ensures that in an issue with many characters, the reader won’t be left confused as to who is who.  Overall, there is a gritty feel to his art, which, with the shadowy depths of the night, create a world that feels both real and well lived in.

Criminal #9 most compelling element is Leo’s characterisation.  As I mentioned earlier, he’s a cold calculating figure when it comes to planning for this particular robbery. His annoyance at Ricky is easy to understand as his carefully laid plans begin to unravel thanks to Ricky’s impulsiveness.  While Leo is aghast at what Ricky has done, we see a hint that Leo is not that different from his friend, which portends trouble…


This series of Criminal has been an outstanding collaboration between Brubaker and Phillips. Brubaker‘s writing is of the highest calibre as we see in his development of some of the fringe characters.  These issues aren’t merely stories about crime but stories about criminals and how the corrosive effects of their lifestyle damages the people they love most. In Criminal #9 we have the perfect fusion of action and characterisation, set in the world that is precarious at best and makes us also care about characters we find simultaneously attractive and repulsive –  a rare trick indeed.

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Criminal #9


Another strong outing from a dynamic team who create some of the finest crime fiction going around now. Criminal #9 looks at the youngsters instead of their parents and finds that the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

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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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