A bleak exploration of damaged people in an uncaring world, Criminal #5 still retains the dark, compelling glamor of its predecessors. Read at your own risk, but enjoy the reward at the same time.
The death of Teeg Lawless has long been heralded, and now it has finally arrived. What was the inciting incident that led to the death of one of the most brutal criminals going around? Find out in our Major Spoilers review of Criminal #5!
Writers: Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colors: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: June 5th, 2019
Previously in Criminal: Brubaker and Phillips have dipped in and out of a main storyline for CRIMINAL, but now they have embarked upon a journey that will show us the death of Teeg Lawless. One of the most feared criminals of his generation is now firmly in the gun. But before we get to that point, let’s look in on a Vietnam vet turned private dick, and the lady who may hold his redemption of his soul in her hot little hands…
NEED NOIR NOW
There are some nights where I go to bed fervently thanking God I signed on to review for Major Spoilers. The reason? Comics like Criminal #5. Without this gig, my life would be bereft of such beautifully composed gems such as this, a tightly plotted, wonderfully characterized deep dive into the rapidly collapsing life of a man moving through the seedy side of life while looking for redemption.
Criminal #5 opens in June, 1988 – a hot summer, and soon to become even hotter for former Vietnam vet and now private detective, Dan Farraday, who takes on a job looking for a runaway mistress. What happens during the course of the investigation becomes the launching point for Teeg Lawless’s death.
Through a skillful mix of omnipresent narration, internal monologue and razor-sharp writing, Brubaker and Phillips have created a compelling character in Dan Farraday. His self-reflection is unsparing, though he demonstrates a jovial attitude until his wartime memories resurface. Which is when things start to go south.
Before that we have the familiar tale of the hunt for a femme fatale who is more than she seems, and who (inevitably) reminds Farraday of his mother, when they led a nomadic life like Hanson does.
There’s no doubt Farraday will find his woman – it’s in the opening pages of Criminal #5 – it’s what the hunt reveals about him – resourceful, melancholy, with an overfull sense of the romantic – that makes Farraday such a poignant figure.
Ed Phillips artwork in Criminal #5, is, with a couple of minor exceptions, top notch. On the positive side, there’s the brooding artwork of page 10, with Farraday deep in thought in his car, face shadowed, cigarette smoldering on his lips. The composition and framing of panels is also exemplary, with the hunt scenes moving along at a quick pace, all without sacrificing character or story. There are a one or two of niggles, though – a couple of awkwardly angled headshots of Farraday are either an aberration, or a misplaced effort at giving him an aw-shucks moment that doesn’t quite come off.
MOVING IN FOR THE KILL
Those minor points aside, Criminal #5 is a really well-told story, with deep characterization (the Vietnam flashback scenes are excellent) that highlight Brubaker and Phillips’ strength as storytellers. When this issue leaves you wanting more, then that’s a definite sign that it has reached inside your chest, taken hold of your heart, and firmly refuses to let go.
And, as an added bonus, there’s extra material at the end of the issue, where the creators sit down for a discussion about ongoing characters in crime fiction, which allows a great insight into their formative reading and viewing.
BOTTOM LINE: COMPELLING
Crime noir is a gritty, melancholic view at the criminal world. Motivations are hazy, characters are damaged and often duplicitous, and the tables can be turned at the drop of a hat. In essence, it is the dark underbelly to our normal lives, where nothing and no-one is safe, and what little time is granted to us can just as easily be snatched away for reasons that never make any sense.
Criminal #5 is that dark underbelly, that bleak examination of broken people journeying through dangerous landscapes, and somehow escaping, mostly unharmed. And, while it is the opening issue to the death of a formative figure in this series, it is very much its own story – complete and whole, and worth every minute of your time.