The sixth collected edition of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Icon series "Criminal" includes the entire "Last of the Innocent" miniseries (which looks to be the last "Criminal" we'll get for a while, since the team are now hard at work on their Image series "Fatale", and presumably there's a third "Incognito" volume in the works at some point, given where the second one left off). "Last of the Innocent" is the best thing Brubaker has done in a few years, since at least the "Lady Bullseye"/"Return of the King" arc in "Daredevil" and possibly since "The Death of Captain America" ended back in 2008. Spoilers follow.
Upon opening the first issue, I quickly realized that the story was going to be an elaborate deconstruction of the Archie mythos into a crime comic, which put a big smile on my face. Much as Alan Moore did, Brubaker has taken a collection of well-known popcultural archetypes and fitted them into a much more adult story, that plays to many of the undercurrents of the old stories. Our story follows one Riley Richards (Archie), now in his 30s and unhappily married to Felicity/'Felix' (Veronica/'Ronnie'), who he discovers is cheating with Terry (Reggie), Riley's old childhood rival. A return visit to his old town of Brookview reacquaints him with Lizzie (Betty) and Freakout (Jughead), and Riley soon comes to believe that his only chance at recapturing his lost childhood happiness is to be with Lizzie. But that means getting Felix out of the way (and before she divorces him and leaves him with nothing)...
This could easily have been a very simple pastiche of Archie as a noir story, but Brubaker has much more to say than simply parodying the simplistic world of Archie and his friends.Read more ›
I'm a huge fan of Jim Thompson and the twisted worlds that are created by the greats of crime fiction. Ed Brubaker is an obvious fan as well as his oft-times collaborator, artist Sean Phillips. When they did BATMAN: GOTHAM NOIR, I was very excited to see more. I finally got the entire SLEEPER series, and it was one of the best series I'd ever read, with a brilliant mix of crime fiction and superhero comics. Then they did it again with CRIMINAL, which is straight-up, no-holds-barred crime fiction. This particular arc, LAST OF THE INNOCENT, is their best work yet. Combining a slick, imaginative artistic style with one of the best crime tales I've read since earlier arcs of CRIMINAL as well as Darwyn Cooke's wonderful adaptations of the PARKER books, LAST OF THE INNOCENT holds up as one of the best tales told of 2011. For fans of Brubaker and Phillips, it's a must own. To fans of crime fiction, it's a must own. To fans of great comics in general, it's a must own.
I used to read comics when I was a kid, but my interest waned as I grew tired of the same old hero's and villains' antics... I now have a son that is interested in comics, and recently I discovered Brubaker and Phillips' Criminal series while looking for books for him. While these are definitely NOT for children, I DO HIGHLY RECCOMEND them for adults. These books are a full throttle rollercoaster ride!! The story line and narrative is gripping and Phillips makes the story come to life with his fresh take on the Noir genre... I highly recommend this book and the others in the series
I am a huge fan of the CRIMINAL series, but this was my favorite entry. It weaves together a tight, sinister but highly enjoyable tale about on how one's nostalgic thirst for the good old days and the need to escape their present reality can become all consuming, and lead them to do the unthinkable and unconsciable.
The lead character, Riley Richards, is an unhappy and rather desperate character. On the surface, he has a beautiful, wealthy wife Felix (who he yearned for since he was young), a beautiful house, money - essentially the life he says he's always wanted. But underneath, he is trapped in a loveless marriage with a downright icy woman, stuck at a soul-sucking job courtesy of his father in law (who constantly berates him and reminds him of his "breeding") and owes a ton of money to a loan shark.
As Riley reflects on what he believes are the good old days and the prime of his life, he comes to a solution - kill off Felix, take her money to pay off the debt and run off and start a new life. He begins to create a plot to put his plan in action, he provides rationalizations for his actions and becomes increasingly aware that his "happiness" will come at the expense of others. This is a price he is willing to pay.
Brubaker and Phillips make use of flashback sequences that almost resemble Archie comics. These show how Riley and Felix became the twisted people they are now. It is ironic that when Riley describes his youth as fun and innocent, you realize that his perceptions of the past were through "rose colored glasses" at best, or that he is a delusional revisionist with selective amnesia at worst. As you read through the panels, Riley, Felix and his friends were not as innocent as he'd like to think.
The artwork is sharp and exceptional, and the story is strong and well written. This is definitely one of the best graphic novels written in 2011.