Wednesday, May 20, 2009

THE SINNERS: The Return of Criminal.

By my count, this is the 100th blog entry published here at A Criminal Blog. What better way to mark the occasion than with this?

Sean Phillips has just published what he has since explained to be a "sketch" of the wraparound cover art for the next issue of Criminal.

(As I told Sean in reply, if that's just a sketch, I can't wait to see the final version. Even in its rough state, it's more striking than most of what you see on the shelves.)

The full image and a link to a full-size version are available at his blog.

It is just a preliminary work, but some brief analysis may be in order.
  • The image filename -- "CRIM02.8d_cvr.jpg" -- confirms that this is the draft art (which would explain the "d") for Volume 2, Issue 8, but this issue number is missing from the sketch that otherwise contains a lot of what one would expect from the final image: the title, the Icon logo, the price, and white space for the UPC barcode. It's possible that, particularly in light of the surprise success of Incognito, the issue number will be downplayed on the cover, in favor of the numbering for the individual story arc.

    This decision would be the inverse of what Dark Horse Comics did with the title that was eventually known as Star Wars Republic. For its first two arcs, Prelude to Rebellion and Outlander, the cover only listed the numbering for the individual story arc in the upper left corner, as if each arc was a separate mini-series. With the third arc, the cover listed both the story-arc numbering (1 of 6) and the monthly numbering (13), and the former disappeared from the cover altogether with the "Republic" rebranding at issue 46.

    If Criminal does drop the numbering of the ongoing title, or at least remove the numbering from the cover, it may be in an attempt to attract new readers who would otherwise be reluctant to jump into a series at issue #8 or so. It would be a reflection of the fact that the title is ultimately a series of interconnecting but really self-contained story arcs.

  • In the top left corner of what will be the front cover, we have a small version of the Criminal title above the logo for the Icon imprint. Keeping the title in this location would allow Sean Phillips to move the large title further down, as he does here, while making the issue easy to spot on comic book racks and in longboxes of back issues. I would expect to see Phillips incorporate the title into the cover art in more interesting ways -- as he did occasionally with Sleeper, especially Season 2, Issue 2.

  • This preliminary art has been released just a few days after Marvel's August solicitations. From following his blog over the last few years, I gather that Sean's first completed work for any issue is usually the cover art, to be included in the solicitation: he showcased the final cover art for the previous issue in late June 2008, about a month before it was solicited. I doubt that this new issue would be added to Marvel's August 2009 solicitations -- I'm not even sure it's possible to add it after the fact -- and I doubt the cover art is being completed now for the October solicitations, which we would expect to be released in two months. So, I strongly suspect that this issue will be scheduled for a September release.

  • Finally, as rough as this first sketch might be, I think it's clear confirmation of what Ed Brubaker relayed way back in September: the return of Criminal will also mark the return of Tracy Lawless.
I really dig the twisted spy story of Sleeper and the "Apocalyptic Pulp Noir" of Incognito, but since it hasn't been "stepped on" and diluted with superhero tropes, Criminal is the purest form of the heavy narcotic that Brubaker and Phillips produce. I can't wait for my next fix, and I'm ecstatic to see confirmation that it's on its way.

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from

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