Thursday, December 15, 2011

Criminal The Deluxe Edition Hardcover Review

Criminal: The Deluxe Edition
Marvel Comics - Icon
Oversized Hardcover
432 pages
$49.99 (2009)
ISBN 9780785142294

Contributors: Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Val Staples, and introduction by Dave Gibbons

Reprints: Criminal (2006) Preview, #1-10 (of 10); Criminal (2008) #1-3 (of 3); The CBLDF Presents: Liberty Comics #1

Synopsis: A collection of hardboiled crime stories:

  • "Coward" - Leo is a planner and adheres to his own strict rules of criminal conduct.  His father was a major player in the city until he broke his own rules and ended up going away for life.  Sometimes called a coward for sticking to his rules and walking away from a job, Leo has his freedom and a lot of respect for being a crack planner.   He gets leaned on by a pair of crooked cops who force him to plan a heist.  You can never trust crooked cops and even worse, he falls for the ex-girlfriend of a pal who got killed on a job where he walked.  Now Leo is breaking all sorts of rules and getting on the wrong side of some bad people.  Can he stay one step ahead of disaster this time?
  • "Lawless" - Tracy Lawless just came home from a tour in the Gulf where he learned how to kill with precision.  His old man was hell on wheels until he got betrayed and killed by one of his criminal buddies.  His little brother took after the old man and got the exact same treatment.  Tracy blows back into the city with one thing on his mind - find his brother's killer and gut the son of a bitch.  He goes undercover with his brother's old crew, but will he fall for his brother's ex-girl?  Tracy is in deep and the truth may bury him.
  • "The Dead and the Dying" - three short stories
    • "Second Chance in Hell" - Jake is a boxing phenom, but his best friend is the son of a crime boss and keeps roping him in for muscle.  He meets a bad news girl with a body and heroin problem that won't quit.  He tries to save her from herself, but it backfires and she ends up ruining both their lives.
    • "A Wolf Among Wolves" - Teeg Lawless just came home from two tours in 'Nam where he learned how to kill with precision.  He brought the war with him and waged it on everything around him - family, friends, himself, and anyone unlucky enough to cross his path.  Now he owes a loan shark thousands and has to pull a major heist to get square.  It's going to be brutal.
    • "Female of the Species" - Danica fell in love with the wrong man - the son of a crime boss who gets her pregnant.  The son's father won't let that happen and makes the pregnancy go away.  Danica's life is ruined until she eventually learns how to use her sexuality as a weapon on the feeble minds of men.  She gets into trouble when her manipulations cross the wrong people.
Pros: Great cover!, beautiful hardcover edition, Brubaker's writing is top-notch crime noir, Phillips' art is dark/moody/clean all at the same time, tons of extras including trailer, covers, pinups, prose stories, afterword, and process notes, 2007 Eisner Award winner for best new series
Tracy Lawless has girl trouble

Cons: Too many extras, doesn't include the full second series (only the first three issues of seven)

Mike Tells It Straight: Brubaker and Phillips are a match made in heaven - crime noir writer working with an artist known for his rough, expressive art.  These stories are top notch in the genre by a proven team (they previously hit it out of the ballpark on a series called Sleeper).  There are no superheroes or magical beings anywhere to be seen.  Just hard luck stories and a half-drunk bottle of scotch. 

Brubaker proves he is a master at writing crime noir.  Easily as good as Frank Miller's Sin City, but more complex and real.  Where Miller's characters are one-dimensional archetypes and the art is perfected simplicity - Brubaker and Phillips give us a complicated world with murky motives.  I have nothing but praise for this book and highly recommend it.

TO BUY and Recommendations: