In Criminal #12 from Image Comics, Teeg Lawless survives the attempt on his life. He chases Farraday, a PI who has followed and kidnapped his mistress, Jane. A terrible car accident ensues, casting a shadow over the life of Teeg, and his conflicted son, Ricky. What happens next will stun you. And to find out what happens next, check out your Major Spoilers review!
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: January 29th, 2020
Previously in CriminaL: To the great surprise of Teeg Lawless, he has found love with Jane, a blonde bombshell who blew into his life and claimed his heart. After the success of a bank robbery Teeg has helped mastermind, it seems that their life together will be on easy street – until a Farraday, obsessed with Jane, steps from the shadows and blasts him with a shotgun. As Teeg lies bleeding on the ground, Jane is kidnapped in a car containing the proceeds from the robbery…
AULD LANG SYNE
I’ve had the privilege over the last year to review every issue of this run of Criminal. It has opened my eyes to the ability of comics to tell deep, complex stories, featuring emotionally crippled and conflicted characters. Featuring excellent writing by Ed Brubaker, and brooding artwork by Sean Phillips, Criminal has long been a favorite of my reviews for Major Spoilers. And now, sadly, this epic run has come to an end. And, notably, it ends with a bang, not a whimper.
It turns out, despite all the crime thriller elements and the attendant noir that marked this series of Criminal, that it actually was a tragedy. Criminal #12 starts where the previous issue finished, with Teeg Lawless lying on the ground, blasted in the chest by a shotgun. A crazy PI, who has been stalking his girlfriend, has made off with her. Teeg, to his surprise, is still alive, discovering that he has been shot with rock salt. He and one of the crime gang give chase, only to see Jane and the PI killed in a car accident.
We then cut to sometime in the future. Teeg is nursing his grief, trying to drown it, but failing, with alcohol. His son, Ricky, has organised a barbeque with the other members of the gang, but Teeg won’t have anything to do with it. Ricky himself is nursing his guilt, and it quickly becomes apparent what it is. Feeling that guilt gnawing at him, he goes to his father, providing an explanation that provokes Teeg to attack his own son. One thing leads to another, and Teeg is shot dead.
We’ve always known that at some point in the past, Teeg Lawless would die. We just didn’t know how. Or how much of a grim tragedy it was. Or the role Ricky would play, and the events leading to it. Criminal #12 is that revelation, a stunning tour de force of writing and art that marks this series’ high point. Typically, in a mini-series like this, whether it is television or comics, the second last episode is usually the one where the action happens, while the last episode ties up most of the loose ends in a neat bow. In a compelling inversion of that, Criminal #12 is where it all happens, combining action and pathos to make its criminal characters compelling and ultimately broken.
Brubaker’s writing in this, the dialog and the narration, are simply compelling. He demonstrates how disconnected from the world around him Teeg is, by showing empty dialog balloons to represent Teeg’s unmooring from the present. He also uses Jane’s internal monolog overlaid on Farraday’s obsessive talk, showing how she isn’t listening to him.
And where Brubaker brings the killer words, Sean Phillips brings the killer art. As ever, Phillips’ perfectly composed and balanced panels tell a story in and of themselves. Indeed, you could delete the dialog balloons and still understand the story. Working in sync with Brubaker, however, Phillips elevates Criminal #12 to heights that best even some of the superb issues in this series. Teeg’s empty, middle distance gaze is all you need to know about his mental state. The haunted look Ricky has as he musters the courage to tell his father the truth of what happened is heartbreaking in its intensity and foreboding. And the aftermath of Teeg’s death, depicted in all its gory glory, is truly a sight to behold.
BOTTOM LINE: SUPREME
Cruel Summer, the overarching title of this 12 part mini-series, is an apt title. Brubkaer and Phillips dangle a sort of redemption for Teeg Lawless, in the form of Jane, his equal in cunning and guile. But we as the reader, if we have a familiarity with their previous work, know that Teeg doesn’t make it out alive. After the bait and switch at the start of Criminal #12, we’re left wondering what his eventual fate is. Through some wonderful characterisation, and compelling art, we soon find out the Teeg Lawless’s final destiny.
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The sort of payoff to a series most writers and showrunners would give their mother in law’s left arm to achieve, Criminal #12 is a fitting conclusion to an excellent series that has become my standard for all future crime thrillers in comic book form. If you haven’t picked up the individual issues, hunt down the collected edition when it comes out. This series is just that good.