Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Short Essay on Criminal, in Great Escape Comics Newsletter.

I've occasionally mentioned my friendly neighborhood comics retailer, Great Escape Comics in Marietta, Georgia. The good folks there have begun publishing a shop newsletter: the premiere issue is now available online in PDF format, and on page 5 is an essay I contributed to the issue. Excerpted below, the essay is a brief introduction to my favorite comic book series.
Criminal features a series of self-contained but interlocking crime stories, where a tightly constructed plot is driven by one of a growing number of engrossing characters: the master thief whose ability to survive has earned him a reputation for cowardice; the troubled soldier who, when enlisting to avoid prison, abandoned his now-murdered younger brother; and the insomniac who is drawn into his old life of forgery, in part because he compared himself to the hard-boiled detective in the comic strip he draws. Their stories are effective thrillers, but they are also tragic character studies, where the readers slowly learn that their defeats and pyrrhic victories are often the result of their own deeply-rooted flaws.

Each story arc in Criminal can be thoroughly understood and enjoyed in isolation, but together they are creating a sprawling city with decades of history. Themes recur time and again, the most significant theme being family, the responsibility of caring for your family and the scars that can be caused by those who cared for you. Though he hasn’t been featured as a central character in any single issue, we discover why the man who took his father’s place as the city’s mob boss would tell the fugitive solider that "family is a trap."
That last observation concerns Sebastian Hyde: the story that is slowly revealed in the flashback tales in The Dead and The Dying adds a new layer of meaning to his later conversation with Tracy Lawless, seen at the end of the previous arc.

As usual, I see where my prose could be improved, and the essay that was written a few months ago now seems somewhat out of date: it now appears that Criminal will not return in June or July -- its return will be no earlier than August, probably September -- and I'm rethinking the Bat-related titles in my pull list, in light of Battle for the Cowl, which brought to a close Paul Dini's consistently enjoyable run on Detective Comics.

All that said, I think it's a good introduction to Criminal for Great Escape customers and others. (And if any of our readers lives near Marietta, I recommend Great Escape Comics without reservation.)

For those Criminal fans who want an easy way to introduce the title to their friends, I recommend these links which I've posted before. They're links to free previews of the first two story arcs, each covering a full issue's worth of material.

Criminal Volume 1, Issue 1: Part One of "Coward"

Criminal Volume 1, Issue 6: Part One of "Lawless"

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from

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