Criminal #11 and #12 close out the “Cruel Summer” arc and along with it this volume of Criminal. This arc has been a wild ride with a different point of view each issue creating a mosaic that all leads to one central event. Teeg dies, we knew he was going to die already, but the journey there was what gave us some of the best stories in this series. So, who and how did Teeg die?
What Happened In Criminal #11?
Criminal #11 presents us with the heist that has been oft-talked about, but rarely has more than sparse details been given to the reader. They are robbing a wrestling arena for all it’s worth. Everyone has their job and they know it like clockwork. Jane being one of the masterminds behind the heist ensures that catastrophe will almost assuredly be averted. Afterall she is a catastrophizer and frets over every contingency to ensure maximum safety. But plans often have to be thrown to the wayside in order to deal with what comes up.
It starts out small, one guard not where he is supposed to be. Teeg doesn’t think much of it, the distraction is still in place. Then they have the money and another guard is at the wrong place at the wrong time. The distraction, a bunch of firebombs in trash cans, go off and they are stuck. The plan has been scrapped and they improvise while trying to stick as close as possible to the original idea. That’s when Teeg snaps. He kills a guard that is in their way. He didn’t have to, they almost got out without a single shot fired, but he panicked.
I mentioned before that Jane is like a drug to Teeg. She brings out the worst impulses in him, makes him happy, allows him to believe in a better life of nothing but sex and easy crime. He is drunk on life with her, drunk on the idea of this perfect life. And the slightest chance of it going away freaks him out. In a way, he’s an addict in need of a hit.
Now… Criminal #12
What is phenomenal about the way Teeg’s death is handled is that it subverts your expectations with everything that has been set up so far. There were several possible ways it could go down and Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips show why they are the masters of the genre by flipping the table on its head. The two most likely suspects where Farraday and Ricky himself. Farraday was the number one on the list considering his stalker mentality led him to believe that Jane needed to be rescued from Teeg. Ricky is the abused son who, despite his many, many flaws, loves his dad. These two’s actions do lead to death but just not Teeg’s.
The grand heist went up in flames with the appearance of Farraday. The car crash that kills Jane officially breaks Teeg. He knows he should be dead. He was shot at point-blank range by Farraday, but he lived because he used rock salt. Now that Jane is gone and most of the money gone, Teeg enters a funk. He’s practically the walking dead, a zombie in his life. He lost his drug and is now suffering withdrawal to keep my metaphor up. The scene where all the dialogue is missing as we focus on Teeg demonstrates just how dead to the world he is.
Then the truth hits him and what plays out is a very clever twist. Leo is the killer. He was the only one that remained calm in the entire situation, just like Criminal #9 demonstrated. And to save his friend he became a killer, just like Teeg was ready to kill his son for taking Jane away. The sense of serenity that comes from being happy can be both a blessing and a curse.
Both Issues Demonstrate How To Satisfactorily Answer A Mystery
Another volume of Criminal ends but this time one of the greatest mysteries in the entire series has been answered. Teeg’s death was a tragedy of his own making and it was thrilling to read from beginning to end. “Cruel Summer” was structured perfectly from clever bits of foreshadowing to its multiple points of view and phenomenal character work. I can’t wait to sit down and read it again.