The new Criminal ongoing at Image returns for Criminal #2. And just as Ed Brubaker promised, it’s unpredictable. While issue one ends in a way we think we will see a continuation of the story in the following issue, we don’t actually get that. Instead, we get a new crime story, set in a different time period, with a different character. That’s what makes this series so special, it’s just damn good crime stories told in an anthology format. The tone of this particular crime story is very different from what came before and has a lot of intentional real-world parallels.
Brubaker Playing With A Real Life Trope
Brubaker is known for using third person narrators in his comics, which is rarely done in most comics today. However, on occasion, he uses a first-person narrator when the issue or character demands it. This is what he does in Criminal #2, to great effect. Jacob, in many ways, is a stand-in for the reader. He remains a man who loves comics, wanted to work in the industry, but eventually had to move on to make a decent living. Now that he has reunited with one of his industry idols, he begins to see the underbelly of the business.
They say that you should never meet your heroes, as they will only disappoint you. I’ve personally never had this experience, as my industry heroes turned out to be amazingly kind people. However, I have known people that have experienced this. We have all heard the stories of the great creator with a unique vision that gets stolen from them and then spirals into a depressive state. From Gene Roddenberry, Jack Kirby and countless others. That is what Hal Crane stands in for, and this play on the fan/industry professional relationship really makes this story hit home.
Cameos In Practically Every Panel
The majority of this issue takes place at a comic convention in 1997. Which means that Sean Phillips gets to have a field day. From all the blatant homages to classic superheroes, sci-fi characters, and to even famous pop culture icons; the background of each panel remains littered with pure geeky fun. As someone that has been to only two conventions in his life, I can attest that I have seen how the quality of the cosplays run the gamut of being amazing or being just okay. The acknowledgment of the different kinds of people that are attracted to geek culture is interesting. This also leads to a twist at the end of the issue.
Sean Phillips even uses the opportunity to slip in references to his and Brubaker’s other works, which I appreciated. There are some people dressed up as their other characters, most notably from Kill or Be Killed. Even though this takes place in 1997, long before these comics would see the light of day, it fits as the simplicity of their designs fit into the time period. You can tell Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips just had a lot of fun in Criminal #2. This makes it even more fun to read again to catch all the Easter eggs littered throughout.
Criminal #2 Is An Ode To The Industry With A Sense Of Realism
Criminal #2 manages to tell an interesting character study while also setting up a more traditional crime story to be told. Brubaker plays with real historical facts, mixes it with some of his own experiences, and adds in a play on something many real fans have experienced. This combines to become a comic about the effects of comic books. It provides a fun commentary on how the industry has changed and how creators have been mistreated in the past. It does this, all the while being a fun crime story. Just go out and get it, this is good comic book storytelling. As Brubaker and Phillips intended, it harkens back to what comics used to be: unpredictable, interesting, and telling a satisfying story in just one issue.