Criminal: The Sinners 5 (March 2010)

It’s completely predictable but I guess it’s nowhere near as bad as it could have been. I read the Sinners and I think back to when Brubaker actually wrote real conversations. It’s like he uses Criminal‘s noir influences to excuse no one talking to each other, just at each other. This issue features nothing new, no interesting developments in the criminal underworld of the nameless city, no insights into the Tracy Lawless character. It just trails off, cheating the reader out of the teenage killers getting killed. Their priest too. That scene with Tracy and the priest might be the lamest scene…

Criminal: The Sinners 4 (February 2010)

I’m not trying to be a jerk with the following question. Really, I’m not. Has Brubaker ever read Criminal? Because this arc, with Tracy Lawless being an honorable man among the riffraff, it really feels like Brubaker hasn’t read his comic before. It might explain why Criminal‘s quality is always so sporadic. This issue has better narration than the last, which is good. Brubaker mostly sticks to Tracy this issue–hey, maybe they’ll make a Tracy Lawless action figure! Brubaker seems to have turned Criminal into a sellable property with the Sinners. A little touchup and a little paint and it’s all set…

Criminal: The Sinners 3 (December 2009)

Well, I figured out one major problem–besides the contrived plotting–Brubaker doesn’t have a protagonist this series. He did the first issue, because he hadn’t introduced his teen killers for God (an ex-Army Catholic priest is getting kids to kill criminals), but now he’s got nothing. The narration is awful this issue. It’s probably the worst narration Brubaker’s ever written in Criminal, maybe ever. Brubaker is pushing the series from plot twist to plot twist and there’s nothing going on beyond them. He’s juxtaposing Tracy and one of the young killers, trying to get a neon arrow pointing between the two of them…

Criminal: The Sinners 2 (November 2009)

Brubaker opens the issue with some terrible adjective use, so I started out ready to nitpick. Of course, he didn’t have to prove me right… but he went ahead and did so anyway. I really loathe these types of reviews, because I really do love Brubaker’s work. It’s just… fallen off since he’s gotten to Marvel. Swan dived, actually. Oh, before I get the complaints–great art from Phillips. It’s always great art from Phillips, but this issue he really gets to do a lot. All right, the laundry list. It’s just too contrived. Brubaker expects the reader to make a significant time…

Criminal: The Sinners 1 (September 2009)

I guess Brubaker thought Criminal was out of control too, because for the Sinners, he returns to his most solid protagonist–Tracy Lawless (from the second arc of the first series). For a while it works. We catch up with Tracy. In the year since the last story took place, he’s become a hitman with a conscious. He worries about his boss’s rebelling teenager daughter, cuddles his boss’s distraught trophy wife and seems to be an all-around nice guy. He’s kind of turned into Burt Lancaster in a film noir. Not mean enough to be Kirk Douglas or Richard Widmark. (At least he’s…

Criminal 7 (November 2008)

Maybe I just put it out of my mind, like I didn’t want to believe Brubaker was capable of writing such a stupid reveal. I mean, I knew he was capable of stupid endings–Sleeper provided that one beyond a shadow of a doubt, but…. Really, Ed? Fight Club? That’s the best you could come up with? Ripping off Fight Club? It might not have been a big hit, but everyone’s seen the damn thing. Not to mention it being in the novel too, so even if someone hasn’t seen the movie, they might have read the book. Brubaker’s conclusion is so weak,…

Criminal 6 (October 2008)

Okay, I’m mildly amused–back when I started reading Criminal again, I misremembered the first arc as this arc. Brubaker’s really running into some pacing issues here. What’s old hat in a film noir–around an eighty minute narrative–does not work in comic book form. Brubaker also doesn’t have enough exposition to keep the reader’s reading speed in check, so this issue just flies past. He’s got a protagonist who, on the surface, engenders a lot of sympathy but it’s all false sympathy. Brubaker makes the guy more and more tragic to get the reader interested, to divert attention away from there not being…

Criminal 5 (September 2008)

Ah, the five minute read. Nothing like the five minute read. For a five minute read, this comic isn’t bad. It’s got beautiful Sean Phillips art and it’s not a terrible all action issue. But it’s really light and really boring. Brubaker’s pacing here is for effect, everything is hurried to get the reader anxious. It also made me remember I have read this arc; there’s really not much to it. It left me then, like it is in the process of doing now, with very little impression. The arc either takes place entirely at night or inside the protagonist’s house. And…

Criminal 4 (July 2008)

This arc of Criminal–I can’t remember if I’ve read it or not, I think I’ve read this issue because it seems familiar, but I’m not sure about the rest–is Brubaker’s first attempt at using a non-criminal as his protagonist. The guy used to be a criminal, but he’s since reformed. And he was never a tough guy. Of the five protagonists so far, all but one (the girl) was a tough guy. Now it’s two of six. The issue’s got a nice pace to it, introducing the character, moving him through his routine. It’s the same guy who was in the second…

Criminal 3 (April 2008)

I’d like to say Brubaker has some kind of magic where he’s able to escape all the traps of a guy writing female narration. But he doesn’t. It’s still a really good issue and Brubaker doesn’t make the frequent mistakes of female narration–he’s got a really good plot and he sticks to the events and his protagonist’s observations of them. Where it’s wrong is the texture… he never gets inside the character’s head. It’s no more personal a narration than someone giving a speech. There’s not one personal thing in it, other than the events she finds herself experiencing. This finishes the…

Criminal 2 (March 2008)

What Brubaker does here–a sort of prequel to the second arc of Criminal and a concurrent, companion story to the previous issue–is even better than the previous issue… which I didn’t think Brubaker could do. Brubaker had a hard time working out the setting for Criminal in the first arc and wisely left it mostly alone in the second. But here, instead of dealing with the physical setting, he’s dealing with temporal one and he’s doing a lovely job. The protagonist of this issue is the father of the protagonist from the second arc. There are parallels between how the two men…

Criminal 1 (February 2008)

Such a good issue…. Brubaker’s able to get more content in because he’s got an increased page count but also because he’s concentrating on doing a standalone story. It turns out it’s not exactly standalone, but the issue has a beginning, middle and end. There’s no messing around with being deceptive in the narrative, to find something to reveal. As much as I like Brubaker’s work, his staple of revealing a hidden truth about something in the past gets old. Just having him write a story–a continuous narrative stroke, maybe flashing back to reveal information to the reader but not the protagonist–is…

Criminal 10 (October 2007)

Now I remember this story arc and why I didn’t have any bad memories of it–because it’s great. What Brubaker does in this arc is take a character who’d be on the periphery of another story–a bigger story–and examine him. Tracy’s a tough guy who’d be in one scene of a more traditional noir story and instead Brubaker turns him into the lead. Except he’s not some first person narrator, he’s still distanced. It’s wonderful and completely unlike the first arc. I’m not a fan of the forced fictional cities and locales, but as Brubaker brings this arc to a close, with…

Criminal 9 (September 2007)

It’s in film noir’s nature to have a double-cross, to have a secret inopportunely revealed and have it affect the protagonist’s plans, whether he be a good guy or a bad guy. So I’m not surprised Brubaker has both of those elements in this issue (maybe twice for each). But Criminal isn’t a film. It’s not a standalone narrative, regardless of story arcs. It’s a serialized narrative, which means having a double-cross and revelation once a story arc is tiring. Even when it’s done well, like this issue. It’s different, for example, from a TV show where there’s the weekly “eureka” moment,…

Criminal 8 (July 2007)

In some ways, this issue is the first regular one of the arc. Brubaker’s not introducing anything startling, he’s just telling a story–he’s got enough established already he has material to work through. The result is a very nice issue. The only negative thing I can think of to say about it is Phillips’s one panel with a smiling Tracy is a little weak, like Phillips isn’t used to drawing smiling people. He’s probably not. He also might have been trying to draw a fake smile, so it comes off even funnier. There’s more good narration this issue. I paused to reread…

Criminal 7 (June 2007)

Brubaker has a reasonably painless reference to the first arc here, letting that arc’s protagonist have a little cameo. Then people talk about him a bit. It’s problematic because Brubaker’s writing the character differently here, so it attracts more attention than it should. Otherwise, it’s all very solid, once again. I think my favorite part of the issue–and I’m not even sure if Phillips did it–is this map the villains all look at to plot their plan. It’s just a map, sure, but there’s something very full about it–like it gives the reader a look at this Criminal world without having a…

Criminal 6 (May 2007)

Okay, I’m entering this arc of Criminal enthusiastic. Brubaker either grew up on a Navy base or an Army base–amazing how little biographical information is available about him, even though I know he’s talked about it in at least two interviews–and this arc’s protagonist is an AWOL soldier out to avenge his brother. I don’t remember anything bad about this arc (as opposed to the first, where I still remember ranting about the last issue when it came out). But there are some visible, objective differences. First, Brubaker’s not establishing anything here. He’s not setting up the Criminal series or city. He’s…

Criminal 5 (February 2007)

Turns out some of my major assumptions about the plot and its twists and turns were wrong. Unfortunately, just because the girl doesn’t double-cross the hero, Criminal doesn’t retroactively make intelligible sense. After spending almost five entire issues glamorizing crime–in the most negative way of course–Brubaker ends with a really pat “crime doesn’t pay” message. This issue is pretty bad, in terms of plot. He ludicrously turns the protagonist into an unstoppable killing machine. Maybe they wanted Ed Norton for the movie. I think my biggest problem is how stupid the main character has to be to get himself into this situation.…

Criminal 4 (January 2007)

Finally, a good issue. Maybe if Brubaker had opened with this issue–with some structural editing, of course–I’d feel a little different about Criminal. For the first time, in issue four of five, he shows the reader something about the likely unreliable narrator instead of telling the reader all about him. As much as I hate using workshop babble–showing is always better than telling (unless the point is in the telling, which is certainly not the case in Criminal). This issue the romantic interest’s daughter gets kidnapped. I was so untrustworthy of Brubaker, I didn’t even believe she had a daughter. Hey, she…

Criminal 3 (December 2006)

Well, there certainly are a lot of developments here. There’s a super villain introduced and he’s, no shock, a psychotic. The girl seduces the brainiac protagonist, who’s spent the first part of the issue thinking he needs to think things through better. Oh, and the cute old man the protagonist looks after–he’s got alzheimer’s and a heroin addiction–finds the suitcase full of stolen heroin. Not a single thing in this issue surprised me or gave me anything to think about. Since Brubaker understands this series as a world of red herrings and double-crosses, there’s no reason to think he’s not playing the…

Criminal 2 (November 2006)

I’m still not enthusiastic. Even though I don’t remember the specifics of the events, even though I’m sort of fresh reading it, I don’t really care at all. I remember it ends terribly so going through the issue, I’m finding myself concentrating on things besides the story. First and foremost, the artwork. Phillips is mostly illustrating the heist here and he does these wonderful visual repeats to familiarize the reader with the setting. It’s quite nice. The rest of my concentrations are probably negative ones to some degree. For example, since I don’t remember, is Brubaker going to turn the female character…

Criminal 1 (October 2006)

I remember thinking about early seventies Springsteen the first time I read Criminal and I did again this time. Brubaker’s opening narration makes some pretty clear references to Springsteen and then it disappears. I don’t think it ever comes back, but it’s right there on the second page. I always get hung up on whether it’s intentional or not. The first issue sets up the heist. While Criminal is supposed to be about the unglamorous side of crime, it’s not like Brubaker’s protagonist is some guy ripping off Social Security checks from old ladies. It’s a very “honor among thieves” world, at…