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Preview: Criminal #2

Criminal #2

(W) Ed Brubaker (A/CA) Sean Phillips
In Shops: Feb 13, 2019
SRP: $3.99

“THE LONGEST WEEKEND”: Archie Lewis was the artist’s artist in his heyday, although that’s not what he’s famous for. He’s famous for being a nightmare to work with-and dangerous. So when an old assistant is forced to chaperone his one-time mentor to receive his lifetime achievement award, well… let’s just say things don’t go well. As always, CRIMINAL contains back page art and articles only found in the single issues.

Criminal #2

Preview: Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

writer: Kieron Gillen
artist: Caspar Wijngaard
covers: Sean Phillips (A), Dave McCaig (B), Butcher Billy (C), Paulina Ganucheau (D), Caspar Wijngaard (E)
Caspar Wijngaard (RI-B/W), Sean Phillips (RI-Virgin), Dave McCaig (RI-Virgin), Dave McCaig(RI-B/W), Paulina Ganucheau (RI-Virg)
FC | 32 pages | Superhero | $3.99 | Teen +

His level of genius is matched only by his heroics, and in humanity’s darkest hour, he’s the hero they need the most—alas, poor humanity. Peter Cannon—the man known as Thunderbolt—is only too happy to leave civilization to face its end. Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + the Divine) teams up with powerhouse artist Caspar Wijngaard (Doctor Aphra) as he returns to the superhero genre with a dark, humorous and relentless love song to the genre.

Well, “Love Song” in a Leonard Cohen Love Song kind of way. Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt: saving a world he hates.

Peter Cannon Thunderbolt #1

Criminal is Back and Getting a Second Printing

Crime comic masters Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ have hit the ground running with the return of the monthly, iconic Criminal series. In order to keep up with the overwhelming demand, Criminal #1 will be rushed back to print.

In this double-sized Criminal #1 issue, Teeg Lawless is back in town—but he finds himself in more trouble than ever. Thanks to his delinquent teenage son, this time fists and bullets may not be enough to solve Teeg’s problems.

Criminal #1, 2nd printing (Diamond Code NOV188407) Criminal #2 (Diamond Code DEC180234) will both be available on Wednesday, Feb 13. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, Jan 21. Fans can also subscribe to receive the series delivered by mail within the domestic U.S. on Image Direct.

Criminal #1

Review: Criminal #1

THE RETURN OF THE MOST ACCLAIMED CRIME COMIC OF THE 21ST CENTURY! Hot off their bestselling series KILL OR BE KILLED and their original graphic novel MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, crime comic masters ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS finally return to their most-demanded title—as a new MONTHLY SERIES! In this double-sized (at no additional cost!) debut issue, Teeg Lawless is back in town. But he finds himself in more trouble than ever, thanks to his delinquent teenage son—and this time, fists and bullets may not be enough to solve his problems. A perfect introduction to CRIMINAL and its dark, exciting world, this series will also include back page art and articles to bring readers more fully into the noir experience.

Review: Criminal #1

Teeg Lawless is back in town. But he finds himself in more trouble than ever, thanks to his delinquent teenage son-and this time, fists and bullets may not be enough to solve his problems.

If you’ve never read Ed Brubaker and Sean PhillipsCriminal, you’ve been missing out. For about 8 volumes (depending on what you want to count) the series has been some of the best crime/noir comics our there and just some of the best comics out there period. After a too long break, they’re back with a monthly series that’s a perfect jumping on point.

To say Criminal #1 is good is selling it short. This is one hell of a start and is the type of poetic storytelling that feels so rare in comics today.

The story again revolves around Teeg Lawless who is fresh out of jail and needs to correct the mistakes of his son who has pissed off the wrong people. It’s classic noir/crime with seedy locations, characters, and situations. It nails it all perfectly and it’s a build up to what the score may be to solve Laweless’ issues and get him the money he needs.

The comic is violent but always goes just up to the line in that. It never crosses it and instead leaves some of the worst to off the page allowing readers to imagine what happened. Brubaker and Phillips know how to perfectly pull that off leaving the reader’s imagination to do the worst of the visuals.

And Phillips is key here. Joined by Jacob Phillips on color, the trio deliver a story and visuals that are, and continue to be, a match made in heaven. This is the perfect combination of creators creating a team that’s some of the best ever in comics. Phillips’ grittier art style is made for this type of story. The characters are all unique and their small details are stories unto themselves.

Beyond the comic, there’s also prose included as well. Kim Morgan delivers an essay on Blood Simple, a
 neo-noir crime film that I’m never seen myself. It’s the intelligent icing on the cake of an already really smart read.

Is the comic good? It’s beyond good, it’s great. Criminal #1 shows that Brubaker and Phillips is a team of creators that are some of the best in the comics business. Criminal #1 is one of the strongest debuts in quite a while and a very welcomed return.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Color: Jacob Phillips
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Return to Criminal in a New Monthly Series

Hot off the critically acclaimed, bestselling series Kill or Be Killed and breakout hit original graphic novel My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, crime comic masters Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips return to their beloved, iconic Criminal series. The multiple Eisner award-winning Criminal will return as an all-new monthly from Image Comics in January 2019.

Criminal #1 will debut as a double-sized issue, featuring the return of Teeg Lawless, whose teenage son is causing him trouble that he may not be able to fight his way out of, for the first time in his violence-fueled life.

A perfect introduction for readers to the dark and exciting world of Criminal, this new series will also include back-page articles and illustrations to bring readers more fully into the noir experience.

Criminal #1 (Diamond Code NOV180021) will be available on Wednesday, January 9th. The final order cutoff deadline for comics retailers is Monday, December 10th.

Review: Kill or Be Killed #20

In the final issue of Kill or Be Killed, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser get gutsy narrative-wise by killing off their protagonist Dylan on the opening page, trying a kind of alternate ending, and then switching narrators altogether towards the end of the book. It’s unreliable narration at its finest, and Phillips and Breitweiser turn in some final snow blown New York vistas while Brubaker finally unpacks the book’s message in dramatic fashion, which is basically, “Everything and everyone is screwed”. And, in connection to the real world, this message makes much more sense that when the comic first dropped in the relatively halcyon days of August 2016. In a country where children are separated from their mothers and put in cages, women’s reproductive rights are on the chopping block, and there doesn’t seem to be much to be excited for on 4th of July, Kill or Be Killed’s observations about the unbeatable nature of evil sadly ring true. It’s not something that be thrown in jail or gunned down with a shotgun, it simply is.

Continuing a trend that has permeated the series, Ed Brubaker gives the protagonist, Dylan, some great valid points , but when it all boils down to it: he’s a white male gunning down people. The “imaginary” sequence narrated by him from the afterlife where he has a relatively stable life, is in a relationship with Kira, and acquaintances with the police officer who has been hunting him down the whole series culminates in him killing a corrupt cop and continuing to be a vigilante. (Although, he changes his outfit and M.O. every so often to keep the press, criminals, and NYPD off his trail because everyone’s genre savvy beyond the grave.) Brubaker, Phillips, and Breitweiser riff off superhero comics for a bit in these scenes calling Dylan’s vigilante activities “an unsustainable fantasy version of life” and having the images of a masked man gunning down criminals or brooding on a rooftop ring hollow. The ever present snow helps.

Up to this point, I’ve been qualifying Kill or Be Killed #20 and the series as a whole as having a message or point, and it sort of does: the cycle of evil and the futility of violence to stop it. But, to its credit, Ed Brubaker isn’t preachy in the series using the unreliable narrator device to cast doubt on if Dylan is a sympathetic protagonist, and he and Sean Phillips even play to the lizard brain part of humans and give him a kind of “happy ending” that seems unearned and is ripped away for a path of pain and actual consequences. In what constitutes the comic’s third act, Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser relax the stylized panel compositions and dark greys, reds, and blacks for something more neutral and slice of life. Kill or Be Killed has gone from the New York of Death Wish to the New York of the “New York, I Love You” episode of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None although it forgoes its diverse POV for the perspective of a dead white man and a white woman. It’s almost like Brubaker and Philips are apologizing for unleashing Bernhard Goetz 2018 edition on 2018’s New York City.

However, this vibrancy is short lived as Brubaker switches narrators one final time from dead, omniscient Dylan (On a craft level, Kill or Be Killed proves that omniscient narrators still work in comics.) to Kira, whose emotions are filtered out in beautifully lettered captions that are like Todd Klein’s elaborate letters on Batman Year One, but on Sticky Notes. She’s angry that her best friend was ground down by his mental health issues, society around him, and his violent coping mechanisms and coupled with men cat-calling her at every corner, it leads to a breaking point and a literal mirror image of the possibly supernatural inciting incident of Kill or Be Killed. It also made me think about how even more fantastic this series would have been if Kira was the protagonist…

After an action heavy penultimate issue, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser use Kill or Be Killed #20 to play around with traditional narrative expectations and look at how life is both terrible and precious from a beyond the grave perspective. And, in closing, Dylan’s vigilante activities were definitely not commendable, and he needed psychiatric help much earlier than the final arc, but he made some excellent social observations throughout the series.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Kill or Be Killed #19

In the penultimate issue of the series, Kill or Be Killed #19 ties so many threads together as Detective Sharpe finally realizes that Dylan, not some random guy who got shot, is the masked vigilante. But the main event, or basically double feature, for Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Bettie Breitweiser is a ethics debate between Dylan and Sharpe about why he is a vigilante that is bookended by a tight corner, white knuckle shootout in the ironically named Serenity Oaks. Kill or Be Killed is smart and visceral and beautiful too with a blanket of snow covering the whole issue.

Sean Phillips uses different grids for the “interrogation” sequence in Kill or Be Killed #19 going wide when Dylan realizes that Sharpe has no jurisdiction to arrest or charge him and going skinny when he opens up after Sharpe brings up him killing his drug dealer, Rex, the only “innocent” caught in the crossfire. It doesn’t involve any intense violence, but has all the weight of a great reveal as Dylan gives up everything while also justifying his actions and even asking for thanks from the police officer. Phillips adds a nice level of subtext using the motivational posters in the room like “It’s okay to ask for help” when he opens up. The scene is a setpiece in and of itself with Dylan and Sharpe playing all kinds of emotional and moral trump cards when Dylan decides to go back to his room. However, Sharpe isn’t there to make an arrest; like Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, she’s interested in the psychology behind this vigilante killer. And Dylan finds a little bit of catharsis, and Phillips eases the wrinkles on his face for a bit until Kill or Be Killed kicks into action mode featuring its favorite baddies: the Russian mob. This scene plays out a lot like your favorite director just letting a couple great actors loose in a room as Phillips’ facial acting and use of gutters and Breitweiser’s fluctuating use of shadow play out a second act that is one hell of a moral drama.

With the help of a few panels in the beginning of Kill or Be Killed #19 that show how Dylan has been planning to be a better vigilante while on new meds, the fight between him and Sharpe and the Russian mobsters show how far he’s come since a freaked out, Brooklyn hipster shooting bad people to make a demon shut up. Brubaker and Phillips give him one-liners that would be badass without the context of the series, has him coolheadedly direct a plan of escape,  and even has him make a heroic play towards the end, but scenes that would be “Hell yes!” in any other comic or action movie are downright tragic in Kill or Be Killed. Dylan doesn’t need a gun; he needs help. He may make some valid points about how the United States is a plutocracy, but solves this problem by shooting people in the head. However, Brubaker and Philips don’t make any black and white judgments on him (Even though this is how Dylan says he sees in the world in a sequence reminiscient of Heath Ledger’s Joker with less grease paint.) and make the Russians’ arrival at Serenity Oaks the result of a corrupt cop, not vigilantism. This book loves its moral conundrums, which is great, and places it in the well-earned company of Brian Garfield’s original novel Death Wish , not the Charles Bronson and especially not the 2018 remake directed by Eli Roth.

When reading Kill or Be Killed, I either think that Dylan makes some good points about systemic injustice, is a total violent fuckboy, or is somewhere in between. He isn’t a conventionally likable protagonist, especially in an age of white male mass shooters, even though Ed Brubaker gives him the political views of a frustrated progressive. However, towards the end of Kill or Be Killed #19, he and Sean Phillips start to give Dylan a real, guns a-blazing redemption arc. But his actions with Sharpe against the Russians show how numb he is to killing compared to the police officer who is in shock as the snow swirls around them providing Phillips and Breitweiser a visual shorthand to her emotional state.

With beautifully staged debates about justice and corruption and a chilling, closing action sequence, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Bettie Breitweiser turn in virtuosic shadow drenched and snow blown work in Kill or Be Killed #19. I can’t wait to see how this grounded lofi (at times) approach to the vigilante genre ends…

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Sean Phillips Colors: Bettie Breitweiser
Story: 9.5  Art: 10 Overall: 9.8  Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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