Criminal #3 concludes the “Bad Weekend” two-part story arc. In a change of pace, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips took the opportunity to comment on the comic industry. You still get your crime story. However, it’s just wrapped up in a larger narrative that involves crushed dreams, political backstabbing, and heroes being torn down. This all moves forward to a conclusion that is both depressing and optimistic at the same time. As usual, the creative team of Brubaker and Phillips never disappoint.
The Tension Hal Generates Is Phenomenal
Continuing where the last issue left off, Ed Brubaker neatly ties everything up in a nice little bow. Hal’s drastic decision to steal back his art gains more depth as we continue to delve into the mind of this broken man. There is a glimmer of hope in him, a sense of optimism, that he has kept hidden for a very long time. And, in this issue, it gets completely squashed as Hal’s legacy is ground up by those who want to make a name for themselves from his success.
The irony, of course, is that Hal was no different from them in the old days. The times that he sees as nostalgic, perfect, and wishes never ended, were just as terrible as today. Star King was his magnum opus. However, he got the job by impressing the higher ups and getting his old boss removed from the comic. He was building a creative empire from the ashes of his predecessor’s work.
What Ed Brubaker does fantastically in Criminal #3 is this constant ramping up of the tension and then not following through when you expect it. This is seen when Hal and company attempt to steal back his art, but it’s the most prevalent during the awards ceremony scene. You expect Hal to blow up, to rage against everyone and everything that has ever wronged him. Instead, he shakes Frank’s hand and gives a good speech. The entire time, the reader is on the edge of their seat. And then Brubaker hits us with what we have been waiting for. Hal throws the first punch. Well earned and masterfully paced.
Art & Color Combine To Add Depth To Every Scene
Sean Phillips’ art is in my mind, always top notch. It’s detailed when it needs to be, fluid when it needs to be and has the right style for the tone and mood of Brubaker’s writing. The only thing to complain about, and even then, it’s very minor, is that he sometimes suffers from having his characters seem too similar to one another. When I say that, I specifically mean character faces. Jacob, the narrator of this arc, looks just like another down on his luck, glasses-wearing protagonist of another Brubaker and Phillips collaboration, Charlie. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as it’s a good look, distinctive, and Phillips goes the extra mile by making everyone especially Hal seem different than other characters.
A special nod has to be given to Sean Phillips’ son, Jacob Phillips. He began coloring his dad’s art in the first issue and that continues here in Criminal #3. His coloring really adds to the atmosphere, as it’s realistic but with just enough style to emphasize particular scenes and emotions. Again, the awards ceremony scene is a perfect example. He colors it in dark blue but provides a nice yellow hue to represent the spotlight. What this does is add to the tension, as blue tends to be a calmer color but it’s being used here to obscure certain faces. The yellow hue makes us focus on Hal, who of course is going through a range of emotions that will inevitably boil to the surface. Great stuff.
Criminal #3 Concludes A Short Arc Very Well
Criminal #3 continues the mission statement that this book launched with. An anthology styled comic with great crime stories, amazing characters, and all from a creative duo that is completely in sync. The arc has been particularly fantastic as it analyses the industry itself. But despite the depressing atmosphere and ending for our characters, it does leave us with a message that is the reverse of the previous one. Never give up on your dreams.