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Criminal Vol. 2: Lawless Paperback – December 20, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
Book 2 of 6 in the Criminal Series

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Marvel; 1st edition (December 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785128166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785128168
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.2 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #957,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' CRIMINAL is the best crime series possibly of all time. It has such a dedication to the pulp-noir roots of artists like authors like Jim Thompson and Paul Auster, and filmmakers like Mike Hodges and Jean-Pierre Melville that these seem like great love notes to the masters of the modern noir. The first arc of CRIMINAL, titled "Coward" is such a pulse-racing and cinematically-styled story that I didn't know if they would be able to top it.

Well, they did.

"Lawless" is such an obvious title for this arc because of its dual meaning: The main character named Tracy Lawless and the seeming amorality of the characters of this world.

The main story is as simple as you can get: A mysterious man seeking vengeance for the death of his younger brother. Sure it seems simple, but as we get more into the back-story of these characters and their lies and truths, which are so brilliantly woven by Brubaker, we see how complicated and brutal their lives are.

As opposed to the 'coward' Leo from the first arc, Tracy is as cold as an arctic whiteout. He is ruthless and calculating, but there is a fire that is burning inside him that he may not be able to contain before the final act draws to a close... a fire that we see glimpses of in his past as a soldier in the current Iraq war. Amd once we do get to the final moments of this story, they're moments that you're not likely to forget anytime soon. The ending is so bleak and brutally honest that it makes most modern noir look like Sunday comic strips.

Phillips' art, as per usual, lends itself perfectly to Brubaker's hard-boiled, no-prisoners storytelling. The art, like Mazzuchelli (whose works include BATMAN: YEAR ONE and DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN), is never too cartoony but never too super-realistic. Val Staples, who provides the colors, is also at the top of the game as well.

Crime just doesn't get any easier than this.
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I first encountered Ed Brubaker's writing on Marvel's "Captain America" series, which is perhaps the greatest run in the character's history, and I have followed him to such titles as "Uncanny X-Men", "Daredevil", and "The Immortal Iron Fist". Despite his excellent superhero work, he began his career and made his name in the more noirish field of crime and espionage fiction (influences which clearly carry over into his best work). Eventually, after becoming a star at Marvel, he opted to reunite with "Sleeper" (Vertigo) co-creator Sean Phillips on this series for Marvel's creator-owned ICON line. This volume collects the second story arc, issues 6 to 10, titled "Lawless" and following the character of the same name, Tracy Lawless.

Of the two collections currently published, I would say that "Lawless" is the superior to "Coward", and anyone looking to try out the series might begin with this; a caution, though, that reading this arc, while mostly self-contained, will reveal some spoilers for the preceding story.

This is a straightforward (in a sense) revenge story, with Tracy Lawless making his way back to his hometown to find out who killed his brother Ricky; more generally, Tracy has not been home for fifteen years, and, in the process of his investigation, he uncovers what happened to his more innocent (in his mind) younger brother in the years Tracy was gone. Fans of the crime genre will recognize a lot of familiar types, but spun in interesting ways, and, just generally, done well (cliches became cliches because they were effective). Tracy is, like most crime story protagonists, not strictly a sympathetic character, but the audience is made to take his side anyway; everyone's the hero of his own story, after all.
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Ed Brubaker is one of my favorite writers on the DAREDEVIL monthly comic, which he's still currently writing. He constantly produces razor-sharp dialogue, believable emotion, and enough twists and turns to keep me on my toes. He also had an incredible run on CATWOMAN. His recent work on CAPTAIN AMERICA (especially concerning the resurrection of Bucky Barnes as Winter Soldier and the death of Steve Rogers) catapulted him to national attention.

However, I enjoy Brubaker's CRIMINAL comics as much as anything he's written. So far Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips have finished three graphic novels' worth of material. The series won an Eisner Award in 2007 for Best New Series.

Brubaker and Phillips put stories together whenever they can, then run them as mini-series before they're eventually gathered into graphic novels. I love the stories because they're hard hitting noir tales about tough guys, violence, and constant danger. There's not a superhero among them, and very few innocents.

LAWLESS is the second collection, and it's a barbed-wire punch to the throat. Sleek and deadly as a bullet, the story of Tracy Lawless's quest for revenge after his brother ends up dead rockets along to a climatic finish that belongs on the big screen.

Brubaker's narrative, echoed by Phillips's art, is interesting in this arc. Instead of simply breaking the story out from start to finish, Brubaker reveals everything in episodic chunks. He starts with an action, like killing a man on a rooftop and disposing of his body in a Dumpster in the alley, then circles back around to tell readers who the man was and why Tracy killed him.

Looking back through the graphic novel, I noticed how deliberate the reveals were.
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