Monday, April 14, 2008

Review - Criminal 2 #2 (Marvel/Icon)

I loved the first series of Criminal, aka 'Coward'. There was space to tell the story, and the story was good. I must admit I have not read the second volume, aka 'Lawless' yet, but intend to get the trade soon. Therefore, I have jumped straight in with Criminal 2, which is a series of single issue stories as opposed to a multi-issue arc. Having not read 'Lawless', I have a disadvantage of not knowing the back story, and I also know that this is an issue detailing past history as opposed to present. Still, producing these one-off stories presents problems. The main player is Teeg Lawless, a Vietnam vet who, to escape the memory of that terrible experience, relies on gambling, drinking binges and relentless violence to blot out the horrors. He also has a young family, with 2 sons (who are the main characters of 'Lawless'). The gambling habit has caused a problem, as he had a debt outstanding to some very dangerous people, and a spell in prison has only made the problem worse - a debt in the low thousands has spiralled into a 15k nightmare. The scenario played out to Teeg by 2 heavies is simple - pay the debt off very soon or his sons die.

Teegs attempts to get the cash quickly appear to be resolved when he is tipped off on a way to get his hands on dirty cash. What follows is a series of set-ups and double-crosses and Teegs attempts to put things right. This is the problem I have - it is all over too quickly. What could and should have been detailed over 3 or 4 issues gets resolved in 20 or so pages. It gets a bit bewildering.

The art (both internal and the marvellous cover) suit the mood of the piece perfectly. The way that Teegs alchohol induced blackouts are rendered is superb. Sean Phillips really nails the noir style, and that cover (see above) is the best one I have seen this year. The dialogue is tough and note-perfect. Some of Teegs observations, particularly on the relationship he has with his sons, is both poignant and insightful. The family dynamics, in both the nuclear family and the bigger 'criminal' family are played out with with a care and attention to detail that demands your attention. The whole package is worth your time and money, despite my reservations on the single issue story format Brubaker is currently pursuing.

They (Brubaker, Phillips and the rest of the creative team) care about this work, and that is apparent in the little things - as a bonus there is an article by writer Jason Aaron ('Scalped'), who details his favourite "TV Cops and Television Tough Guys".

Overall this is another quality work that adds to the 'criminal' universe that Brubaker is creating. It is just a shame this tale seems over too quickly.

Verdict - 'Criminal' is one of the greats. The failings in this issue are outweighed by the great writing and art. A worthy addition to the Criminal universe. 7 out of 10.