Criminal #1, October 2006, Icon/Marvel Publishing
writer: Ed Brubaker
artist: Sean Phillips
colorist: Val Staples
Appropriately, this review is going to be a drive-by of bullet points, since I have a surprise going away party for a co-worker to attend later tonight. Hold on:
I've never understood why anyone would read a comic's essay/letters page first, but I know many do, and in this rare instance, I'm glad I did, because the writer's apparent enthusiasm about this series fueled my interest in the story. I recognized the creators' deliberate implementation of the characters' motives and subplots, and how they will inevitably pull together in an emotional and exciting climax. Sometimes, you never know if the writer knew what he really started. In this case, Brubaker has an end in his sights.
This issue read like an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, without the law and order part, which is a-okay by me. Brubaker's character study of the career criminal pulled into a diamond heist against his better judgment is interesting on many levels, and Leo's commitment to his unspoken "rules" (i.e. "I don't work with junkies. It's a rule.") implies a sense of integrity that maintains a twisted moral compass, even if north is south or eastside gets you ten to twenty. The associate that claims respect for Leo's skills, a criminal legacy inspired by his father and the old, ailing partner that Leo still cares for, establishes a sense of honor among thieves, an element I'm sure Brubaker will exploit throughout this initial arc. Criminals are "evil," but mighty fun to watch.
In this case, the criminals are fun to watch because Phillips illustrates them so well. The characters are expressive and dynamically choreographed; this issue read like a well directed TV drama. Kudos.
It's actually criminal that I don't have enough time to elaborate on this issue, but nothing speaks true volumes like the real thing. Put down some honestly earned cash for this one. The irony won't escape you, and neither will Criminal's potential.