Sunday, January 20, 2013

Comic Review: Criminal Vol. 1 Coward

I've been hoarding my volumes of Criminal for a while now, waiting for the right moment to uncork and savor these crime stories from the modern crime masters, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  However, I've been enjoying their latest, Fatale so much, that my will power cracked and I decided instead to go for a Brubaker/Phillips binge and read me some Criminal.

Sometimes it's nice to have wimpy willpower.

In Coward, we follow Leo, an expert pick-pocket and a guy with a deft hand when it comes to planning a heist too.  The thing is, he has a rep for bailing on a job at the first sign of things going south.  However, sometimes a job can be worth the risk, and when Leo is approached by an old friend and a crooked cop to help orchestrate an armored car diamond heist he sets his rules aside in favor of a large pay-off.

If I had any doubt that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are the modern masters of the crime story, I threw all reservations out the door with Coward.  These two guys are truly at their best when working in the crime genre.  Not only was Brubaker able to deliver a great story with all the twists, backstabs, and drama that are the staples of the genre, but Phillips was able to bring it all to life with his fantastic art.  The settings are seedy, the characters are unsavory, and Phillips makes it all seem so real.

The synergy that Brubaker and Phillips share is incredibly impressive and their great rapport makes it incredibly easy for the reader to completely fall into this world of crime and mayhem.  It's pretty easy to gush about how solid the Brubaker-Phillips collaboration is, these guys have worked together extensively, and it shows in Coward.

One aspect that made Coward stand out for me was Brubaker's choice of Leo as a main character.  In pretty much every crime story I've come across, the main dude is usually a tough-guy type who won't back down from a fight, or hesitate to whip out a gun and shoot it out with some cops.  Leo, on the other hand, is the polar opposite and when the going gets tough, Leo hits the road.  The use of a non-standard character in this very standard urban crime setting was a nice touch, and one that makes this story stand out from the crowd.

As I've come to expect when Sean Phillips is involved, the art in Coward is great. Phillips can flat out draw the hell out of a crime story. As I mentioned earlier, he has a great knack for bringing the world, and the characters that fill it to life with his art.  Phillips can deliver action scenes and dramatic moments where body language and facial expressions tell the tale with equal aplomb, which is no small feat.

If you like your crime with a nice layer of grit, and are in the mood for a crime comic with fantastic writing and pitch-perfect art, than Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal is the place to go.  This is top shelf stuff from two of the very best.  I expect I'll be reading the rest of the Criminal volumes sooner than later.

Grade: A+

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