Criminal, vol. 5

Criminal 5Summary: Criminal’s most popular character, Tracy Lawless, returns in The Sinners! It’s been a year since Tracy was forced into working for the bad guys, and now made men are turning up dead all over the city, in what appears to be mob-style hits. But since criminals don’t go to the cops for justice… only Tracy can solve this crime. Collects Criminal: The Sinners #1-6

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Criminal: The Sinners, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips 8.0

For this fifth volume in the gripping ‘Criminal’ series, Tracy Lawless returns (see volume 2) as our featured hood. Having promised Sebastian Hyde to do his bidding to pay off a debt, we discover that he’s consistently been testing his new boss’ patience, refusing to do certain jobs and doing them his way instead of as asked.

In ‘The Sinners’, we learn about his code of honour, and discover that he wants to get out from Hyde’s grip. Unfortunately, he’s disappointed the old man once too many times and he’s no longer considered dependable. With little left to lose, he strikes a deal to do one final job, in return for which he would be given his freedom back.

His job: to track down the people behind a series of mysterious hits on Hyde’s men.

Even though he is better suited for combat than for detective work, Lawless knows that this is the only way out for him. And so it is that he begins to ask questions, collecting clues as best as he knows how. This causes some feathers to be ruffled and he eventually gets in some pretty serious trouble by the book’s end.

I adored that Lawless didn’t always connect the dots around him (like the fact that Hyde thinks he’s slept with his daughter because he saw him drop her off one night), and that we are privy to the information he’s not; it shows us the fallibility of our protagonist and forces us to watch powerlessly as he bumbles his way through.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

I also rather enjoyed the notion that the people behind the murders was a priest and a few kids who are doing “God’s work”. In some ways this vigilantism reminded me of ‘Magnum Force‘ and ‘The Enforcer‘. I also loved that Brubaker added an extra layer of complication by throwing in a C.I.D. agent who’s out to find him.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

The book gets pretty violent and Sean Phillips is entirely capable of translating all of it to the page. In fact, he manages to add a certain amount of sleaziness to much of the proceedings – which is entirely fitting, but surprising given the style of his art. I still contend that no one understands Brubaker’s stories better than he.

While I didn’t enjoy ‘The Sinners’ story arc as much as the last two books (I don’t like Tracy Lawless as much as other readers do), it’s an excellent effort nonetheless. It would have been hard to sustain the quality that the pair had achieved of late. But they did manage to churn out another fine entry in their ‘Criminal’ series.

It should be a sin to be this good and make it seem so effortless.

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