Criminal #1 Review

by Brian Renninger on January 09, 2019

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics

The dynamic duo of modern noir storytelling, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, deliver another entry in their critically acclaimed series Criminal. Brubaker’s narrative style and Phillips’ cinematic art direction pair to form one of the most unique voices in comic books, and what we have here is yet another topnotch effort to pull us all back into dangerous world of Teeg Lawless and his nefarious cohorts.

The biggest strength of the series, exemplified in this issue, is just how little previous knowledge of the world you really need to jump right into the story. Yes, this is a #1 and rightly so, but many of these characters have a history already deeply explored in eight volumes worth of narrative. The good news is that you need none of that to enjoy what’s in these pages. So if you’re new to Criminal, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this issue.

Brubaker is well known for his ability to craft some of the most original hardboiled dialogue in comics, and those who have read his previous works will rediscover his knack for only dipping into cliché when it most serves the moment. In this issue, we see the familiar bouncing between narratorial story moments and genuine, believable character dialogue that really ground these characters into a believable world. Their luck, or lack thereof, may work in hyperbole, but it serves the story well.

Teeg is an excellent vehicle in carrying us through the lives of these unique and dangerous people that form this parasitical criminal ecosystem. His desperation proves a familiar motivation for what’s being set up here, and now restarts the game of trust, loyalty, and making (and losing) lots of money. This issue does an excellent job, at nearly forty pages of content, of setting up a tried and true Criminal story by giving us plenty of character and story development to get us to the next issue.

The art of Sean Phillips is almost synonymous with the storytelling of Ed Brubaker at this point in their careers, as I’m not sure I’d like to take one without the other. If you’re familiar with Phillips’ work, then you’ll see his familiar polish and the subtle stage play that make his characters so cinematic. One of the more interesting additions to the lineup, however, is Jacob Phillips on coloring. The son of Sean Phillips’, Jacob came on board the Criminal team it the three’s original graphic novel My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, the previous entry in the Criminal universe. This issue again proves Jacob to be a welcome addition to this creative team.

Not much more to say other than enjoy. This looks to be a start to another memorable tale of reckless aggression and betrayal and I absolutely cannot wait.

Our Score:


A Look Inside