Criminal, vol. 4

Criminal 4Summary: A woman in trouble, friends on the run from cops and mobsters, and a secret no one is prepared to face! Five years ago, Jake was a happy family man, long-retired from the life of crime he grew up in, and then the police made him the prime suspect in a horrible crime and ripped his life apart! Now, years later, Jake is less than a shadow of his former self, a hopeless insomniac who walks the city streets at night. But one night, he walks into the wrong place at the right time, and his whole life changes again… Collects Criminal 2 #4-8.

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Criminal: Bad Night, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 8.25

‘Bad Night’ is another self-contained story arc in the continuing ‘Criminal’ series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Still taking place in Center City, this time we are following a former counterfeiter who has since cleaned up his act and become a successful newspaper comic strip author – that is, until one fateful night.

Jacob has done everything to stay on the straight and narrow. However, a few years ago, his wife disappeared and was later found dead. Although there was no wrong-doing, he has since been hounded by the police officer who was on the case – who is so convinced that Jacob is hiding his guilt that he’s even tried to beat it out of him.

To add injury to insult, his wife is the niece of Central City crime lord Sebastian Hyde who, initially convinced that Jacob had murdered her, had his goons bust him up, destroying what was left of his life. To this day he has difficulty walking and he looks over his shoulder, watches every step, leaving his house rarely.

Then there was that night. It was not a good night.

‘Bad Night’ takes elements from the previous books as its inspiration, fleshing out Jacob, who had a cameo ‘Lawless‘ and whose comic strip showed up in ‘Coward‘. But it tells a completely unrelated story. And it’s a good one: Brubaker takes a man pushed against the wall and backs him into the corner, putting readers on edge.

I loved how Brubaker took us into the man’s head, making him almost sympathetic – for an ex-con, I mean. Brubaker has a knack for making his characters feel real, like people you might actually meet (and probably wished, in most cases, that you never would). And when Jacob makes that one mistake, we get it.

I loved the twists and turns that Brubaker threw at us. What was remarkable is that every question that I had, every bit that seemed discrepant and nagged at me, was resolved as I read further. As with most noir-ish stories, it’s a simple one in the end, but the complexity of the characters makes up for it in spades.

As Brubaker’s accomplice, Phillips still can do no wrong: he has a knack for bringing the shadows to life and is completely at home in them. He also make everything look realistic, taken out of life, even if lacks finesse in some areas. His touch isn’t slick, but it’s skilled. And if the book has any grit it’s all thanks to him.

After the superb ‘The Dead and the Dying‘, there was only one way for Brubaker and Phillips to go: down. Amazingly enough, they hammered out what may very well be their best effort of the series yet. With ‘Bad Night’ the duo have ensured that ‘Criminal’ is not just a fluke. It is one of the best comic series on the market.

Not reading it is criminal.

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