Customer Reviews: Criminal: The Deluxe Edition, Volume 2
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VINE VOICEon October 16, 2012
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have a perfect marriage, and you know how I mean that. All of their collaborations have borne some pretty exquisite fruit. From GOTHAM NOIR to the deconstructive brilliance of the SLEEPER books, to the pulp anarchy of INCOGNITO, to the more recent noirish horror of FATALE, you're getting some of the best writing and art that comics have had to offer over the last decade or so. And then, there's CRIMINAL. CRIMINAL is a comic that combines hard-hitting drama, bloody violence, underworld intrigue, steamy sex, and gritty realism. Make no mistake, while Frank Miller's SIN CITY may be a kind progenitor to this particular brand of crime comics, that exists in a much more highly-stylized hyper-realistic yet unrealistic world. And this particular collection of CRIMINAL has the very best arc this few-degrees-of-separation comic has yet to offer as well as some other incredibly powerful works by the pair.

"Bad Night", the first arc this volume has to offer, is the tale of Jacob, the rather timid writer and illustrator of the "Frank Kafka, P.I." comic strips that have made appearances in the "Coward" and the "Lawless" arcs of this comic. He's pulled into a web of deceit by a sultry femme fatale and her thuggish partner as they find out a secret in his past that leads him to a deadly confrontation. Part of the story device that Brubaker employs in this arc is that Jacob finds himself consulting his fictional hard-boiled detective for advice, and acts as a narrator for his own tale. It's something that's a lot of fun to read, as well as being very suspenseful, but lacking a little in emotional conflict.

"The Sinners" brings us back to the world of Tracy Lawless, whose own brutal and unforgiving arc was one of this series' best works. This time, Tracy has to deal with a series of murders amongst the upper echelons of crime in CRIMINAL's nameless city, which, if the killers aren't found, may cause the city to erupt in a massive and bloody gang war. If that isn't enough, the Army has sent one of its investigators to bring Lawless in for his desertion. This all leads to a reveal about the killers that is truly shocking, and has a punch that will leave its mark on the CRIMINAL universe forever. This arc is another small classic for Brubaker and Phillips.

"The Last of The Innocent" is the last arc in this collection, and believe me when I tell you that they saved the best for last. Riley Richards seems to have a pretty excellent life. Beautiful wife, good job at her father's successful company, but all this changes when he has some debts to the Hyde syndicate and when he discovers that his wife has been cheating on him. All of this, naturally, can be solved by her murder and the proper frame-up that involves the people of Riley's past. A past he longs to have once again. Unlike the protagonists of CRIMINAL's other arcs, this is about the everyman who turns into a killer not because he's pushed to do so or for revenge; this is something that he chooses. He allows amorality and ruthlessness to become who he is in order to get the life and love he left behind in his past back. This is a tale less of the likes of Mickey Spillane or Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. This seems very influenced by Jim Thompson, possibly the greatest, and certainly the most twisted crime novelist who ever lived. The art style that Phillips occasionally adopts is that of an ARCHIE comic when he shows a flashback, showing the past that these characters inhabited under a much lighter tone but still with a seriousness and a bleakness that informs the reader that they're really looking to turn the genre on its ear a bit here. The result is a perfectly-told tale of one man's descent into a hell of his own making. The ending is one of a very nihilistic hope, which is contradictory to be sure, but when you read it, you'll understand what I mean.

"Bad Night": 4.5/5
"The Sinners": 4.5/5
"The Last of the Innocent": 10/5 (yes, it's that good.)

Get this now.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 27, 2015
Tracy Lawless is on the hunt for his brother’s killer. But his brother, Rick, was mixed up with some ne’er do wells who are planning a Christmas heist. Tracy’s got to infiltrate the group and figure out who offed his little brother - and make them pay!

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal is my favourite title from among their many collaborations (Sleeper, Incognito, Fatale) but I think this second volume is the least in the series. It’s definitely hard-boiled noir, kind of like a more realistic version of Frank Miller’s hyper-stylised Sin City, but the story isn’t as gripping.

Tracy’s hunt for his brother’s killer feels like a subplot instead of the main, and his search is very slow and unfocused. He gets into his brother’s old gang and then basically goes along with their plans. His “search” doesn’t feel in the least bit urgent and it’s almost surprising when he does discover his brother’s killer at the end. Compare it to Sin City: The Hard Goodbye where Marv is relentlessly killing his way to the truth, and it’s like Tracy barely has any drive at all!

Meanwhile, Tracy’s just going with the gang’s plan, a storyline which isn’t all that great to read. Sure there’s a car chase here, knocking over an ATM there, sleeping with the femme fatale, but it seems rote and it’s not a whole lot for a full-length story. It doesn’t help that the characters feel like cliches and Tracy himself, despite the numerous flashbacks to a troubled youth, isn’t that interesting a protagonist. Brubaker tries though, making him this tough guy who also occasionally does some kinda good things, eg. killing bad guys. Like a lot of Criminal’s cast, Tracy’s a little bit of good and bad so there’s a frisson of unpredictability to all of his actions.

I’m always impressed with the ease with which Brubaker’s created the Criminal world. In just a few pages the Undertow bar feels very lived in, Brubaker focusing on a child waitress who has the run of the bar to draw us into the atmosphere of the place. That authorial confidence and originality, along with Sean Phillips’ ink-heavy artwork, is why the series is so well-regarded. And Phillips’ realistic art style is certainly good in this one. The snowy Christmas backdrop mixes with the noir for a very moody setting which is perfect for the book.

Lawless isn’t a terrible comic by any stretch but for a revenge story it’s surprisingly slow and plodding, and doesn’t grab you like other Criminal books do. I did like that the ending is counter-intuitive to the standard revenge arc, which usually ends with the killer getting theirs, but you can see the twist coming after the childhood flashbacks start coming thick and fast towards the end, asking the reader to wonder about Rick’s character, who is largely unknown for much of the book - was he a good guy or a bad guy and, if the latter, do you want him to be avenged?

The Criminal books are great because Brubaker spins some great stories with the most unpleasant cast, and the series as a whole is definitely worth checking out. It’s especially a good time now as it’s being republished by Image after being out of print for a while. Lawless though ain’t flawless.
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on February 27, 2015
Fantastic art, half-decent noir characters, comfortingly predictable setups, and everything else you could want out of something like this. The literary equivalent of your city's "local best" bacon cheeseburger. Mmm, I wanna go read it again, even though it's got nothing good for me...mmmmhhhoorglfff...
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on July 11, 2014
The second volume of Criminal wraps up what is one of the best crime comics ever made, at least for a while. Now that Brubaker and Phillips have moved from Icon to Image with their incredible genre-blending title 'Fatale', which combines the noir elements of 'Criminal' with the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft, they may be there for some time. The astounding success of that title means that what began as a short diversion between 'Criminal' story-arcs is now their creative focus, with no end-date forthcoming.

But given what the two have accomplished thus far, I doubt the hiatus will be too long. As volume 2 demonstrates, this is more than just your average crime story. Even the more straight-forward plots of 'Coward' and 'Lawless' provided Brubaker-patented twists that were far from predictable, whether or not you happen to be a fan of Hammett, Chandler, Thompson, et al. 'Bad Night' is where Brubaker begins to play with the ideas he will put to good use later, while 'The Sinners' once again features Lawless in one of the best stories yet. 'The Last of the Innocents', however, sees Brubaker flexing some intellectual muscles, delving into meta-narratives that are closer to Paul Auster and his 'New York Trilogy' than Jim Thompson or Richard Price.

Phillips artwork is so perfect for the material that 'Criminal' could easily pass as the product of a single mind, as many of the best crime comics are. Teams so well-suited for collaboration are rare in comics -- Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are the only other duo that work as well, particularly on 100 Bullets, another top five entry for the best in crime comics. Phillips has a realistic style, but one that's stripped down and drenched in shadow, bespoke art tailored exactly for the subject matter.

Phillips also does another excellent job designing the hardcover, a truly deluxe edition that makes DC hardovers look cheap in comparison, despite the fact they usually cost more. The extras are nice, a couple of the essays included with the single issues, but only the ones penned by Brubaker. The gorgeous paintings Phillips created to accompany the essays, however, are included in their entirety. The volume is slightly oversized, at about 7.5" x 11", and is a hefty 428 pages, printed on glossy, high-quality stock. Another essential for crime fans, highly recommended.
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on May 7, 2015
Why Hollywood hasn't jumped all over Brubaker & Phillips' masterpiece Criminal is beyond me. Here in the second deluxe edition the last three Criminal volumes are collected. The first story, Bad Night, is my favorite. The cross and double cross that you expect is only the beginning. Brubaker creates characters with so many layers, its amazing. The inclusion of the the comic strip aspect was fantastic and added so much to the story. The middle story involving another Tracy Lawless story was very good but was a little too by the numbers but that's being nitpicky. The conclusion was a sad tale of revenge, friendship, and what could have been. Sean Phillips is the perfect artist for this and would not have been the same without him. Ed Brubaker does comic book crime noir as good as anyone in the business. Overall, a near flawless collection!
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on February 27, 2016
I enjoyed everything about Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' graphic crime novel Lawless. Phillips' art is gritty and just minimalist enough. Brubaker's story and dialogue is tough and compelling. I was fascinated by the character of Tracy Lawless and his quest for revenge. The heists and the criminal milieu reminded me of the best of Richard Stark's Parker novels.
Highly recommended.
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on June 21, 2013
Brubaker quickly became one of my favorite authors after reading the CRIMINAL series. I have now moved on to Incognito and FATALE, which I both love. I cant say anything else but perfection. I LOVE THESE STORIES. Growing up watching mobster and crime movies really made me get into this series.
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on December 19, 2013
This was just one of the best comic books I have ever read. Together with volume 1, this is a must read. Ed Brubaker is a genius. The way he gets you invested in a character within a few pages is astounding. Every one of his comics feels like you just saw one of the best films you've ever seen.

Loved this book so much.
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on November 18, 2012
The second Criminal Deluxe Edition is as good as crime noir can get in the comic form. Excellent stories of flawed individuals that have to make hard choices with realistic consequences for their actions. The only complaint I have with this release is the omission of the original essays by creators about their favorite film noir movies that were in the comics when they were first released. The extras that are included are cover galleries and essays written by Ed Brubaker. Outstanding from first page to last.
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on January 5, 2013
Brubaker has a gift for criminal stories, it is a pleasure to dive in on tales that portrait well the fortunes and misfortunes of the underworld. He dives inside the characters and their world like no one else. A good read and also great art. I recommend both the 1st and 2nd edition of Criminal.
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