Comic Book Review: Criminal #1

Criminal #1 is a bit of a departure for the Revolution since it is not a super hero comic book. Now, when it comes to Japanese manga, I prefer non-super hero stories. However, when it comes to American comic books, I only really like to read super hero stories. However, since my current favorite writer, Ed Brubaker, is penning this title, I decided I had to give it a chance. After all, if Brubaker can get me to like Captain America, then I figure he can pretty much get me to like almost anything. Even a non-super hero American comic book. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips

Art Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: This story centers on Leo, who is a master criminal. Leo believes what separates professional robbers from your typical thug with a gun is Leo’s fear. Fear of dying. Fear of going to jail. That keeps Leo from doing anything stupid and from getting caught. We learn that Leo’s father was also a professional criminal.

This issue starts with a flashback scene from bank robbery five years ago. In that robbery, the other men working the robbery got killed. Only Leo managed to escape alive. We shift to present day. Leo is approached by a two cops. One of them is Seymour, who Leo has done business with in the past. The other is Seymour’s new partner, Jeff. Seymour approaches Leo about a big score. $5 million in diamonds to be exact. They are in a police evidence van on the way to court. Leo says that the plan is too risky and he wants to part of it.

We follow Leo home. Leo thinks how the last time he worked a job with Seymour people died. Leo arrives at his apartment where he takes care of Ivan, his father’s old partner in crime.

Later that night, a woman named Greta stops by Leo’s apartment. Terry is the wife of Terry Watson, one of the robbers who died in the robbery five years ago. Greta says she needs money to take her daughter out of this horrible city. Greta says that Seymour told her that Leo was refusing to help on a big job.

We cut to Leo at his old hang out, a bar called The Undertow. This was a bar where the criminal underground considered a safe zone. Leo asks the bartender, Gnarly, if he has seen Donnie “The Spaz” lately. Leo tells Gnarly that if he sees Donnie to tell him that Leo is looking for him.

We cut to Seymour and Jeff talking about the big diamond heist. Seymour explains that Leo is so damn good because he is a coward. That he is excellent at seeing holes in any security system or plans and great at mapping out robberies and is equally good at slipping away, too.

We cut to Leo meeting with Donnie “The Spaz.” Donnie fakes an epileptic fit and tells the bystanders around him that he has no health insurance and then he asks them for money to help him pay for a visit to the emergency room. Leo asks Donnie if he would help him on the diamond heist.

We shift to Seymour and Jeff at a diner. Seymour gets a call from Leo. Leo says he will do the job. Seymour tells Jeff the news. Jeff then calls some crime boss and tells him the news that Leo has decided to do the job. The crime boss is happy and then gets off the phone and resumes interrogating some guy he has captured. End of issue.

The Good: Criminals #1 is a nice read. The pacing on Criminals #1 is pretty slow. Brubaker spends this issue developing Leo’s character and laying the foundation for the rest of this mini-series. I have no problem with the slow pace of this issue. This is typical Brubaker. He always makes sure that he has a strong foundation and places all the characters in their proper places before the pacing ramps up to a fast pace and all hell breaks loose.

All of the various characters are well written and have their own distinct personalities. We are treated to a very strange and unusual cast of characters. As always, Brubaker serves up some well crafted dialogue. The dialogue has a nice natural flow and makes this an enjoyable issue to read.

Brubaker has constructed a very interesting little character study with this title. Leo is an interesting protagonist. Leo is certainly a far cry from your usual heroic main character. Brubaker does an incredible job fleshing out Leo’s character in this issue. We got more character development on Leo in this one issue than some writers are able to do in 10 issues.

The Bad: I have no complaints with Brubaker’s writing. However, the same can’t be said for Sean Phillips’ artwork. I am simply not a fan of his style of art. It just doesn’t fit my taste in art. I find Phillips’ art to be sloppy and lifeless. The panel layouts is terribly monotonous and predictable. Overall, the panel layouts and the artwork itself gives Criminals #1 an extremely boring and dull look.

Overall: Criminal #1 is a pretty good issue. It doesn’t make me want to run out and read other non-super hero American comics, but I am certainly enjoying this change of pace. If you enjoy Sean Phillips’ style of art, then you will definitely like this title. At any rate, Brubaker’s writing makes Criminal a title worth checking out.