Criminal vol. 7: Wrong Time, Wrong Place



I’m not done with Brubaker yet this week.  To be honest, after the writer decamped to Image along with Sean Phillips to do “Fatale” and their subsequent creator-owned titles, I didn’t think we’d ever see another volume of “Criminal.”  It had a very good six-volume run over at Marvel, but no ongoing storyline that needed to be continued.  Also, their Image titles sell better than “Criminal” ever did, so it’s not like there’s a real financial incentive to bring it back.  I’m glad they did as “Wrong Time, Wrong Place” gives us two more quality stories about the tragically violent Lawless family.

“Wrong Time” spotlights Teeg Lawless, doing a 30-day stretch for an outstanding bench warrant after he was busted in a bar fight.  Which, surprisingly, had nothing to do with the heist he just took part in for local mob boss Sebastian Hyde.  Things are going well for the man, until people start trying to kill him.  Surprisingly, these people aren’t out to get him on Hyde’s order.  Teeg’s a survivor, if nothing else, so the question here becomes who gave the order to take him out?  Revealing that he lives isn’t a spoiler because the back cover gives away the fact that Teeg is still alive by the time the second story, “Wrong Place,” comes around and we get to see what life was like when he goes out on a job and brings along his son Tracy, as the driver.  This is Tracy’s story as he learns a predictably hard lesson about getting to know other people at a time like this.  Whether or not anyone has to die in order for him to learn it, well, that would be telling…

Brubaker offers an illuminating look at the two most interesting recurring characters in the “Criminal” mythos.  Teeg may come off as a heartless killer, but there’s always a cold logic behind every action he takes.  As for Tracy, the origins of his isolationist tendencies are made quite clear here.  Both issues are also a great showcase for Phillips too, as he captures the cold grime of the prison from the first story, and the relative peace of a rural small town quite well.  However, the real showpieces for the artist in these issues are the comics-within-a-comic:  “Savage” and “Fang the Kung-Fu Werewolf,” pastiches of “Conan” and Marvel’s 70’s Kung-Fu titles, respectively.  The stories told here may be a bit on-the-nose with their parallels to the ones in the main plot, but the offer Phillips a rewarding chance to cut loose and have some fun with the styles he’s homaging here.  It’s clear that the creators haven’t lost the thread with the characters and world of “Criminal,” and any future returns stand a good chance of being welcome ones after seeing how this one turned out.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com


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