Pick of the Week

September 26,2007 – Criminal #9

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Size: pages

Story by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by Val Staples

Published by Icon/Marvel Comics | $2.99

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That’s the sound a roller coaster makes when it nears the apex of its initial ascent.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That’s the sound you hear that let’s you know that shit’s about to get hairy, maybe even a little scary, and probably a whole lot of fun.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That’s the sound of Criminal #9.

I know that I probably say this for other books that come out — I know I’ve said it for Captain America — but this may in fact be the best book out in the market right now. It’s so authentic you have to wipe the grime from your fingers when you’re done reading. The characters are so real that you feel like you know them after only a few issues. Brubaker might reach his widest audience with the book about mutants, but there is absolutely no doubt that this is world in which he belongs.

Is there any doubt that Ed Brubaker is the best writer in comics right now? He writes five books a month, all of which are different. Two of his books vie for my title of Best Book in Comics, two are varying degrees of good to excellent, and there’s only one I consider subpar. On balance, that’s a pretty great month of comics. I would think that most writers in the business would take those numbers.

Ed Brubaker’s collaboration with Micheal Lark on Daredevil is among the best in the business. Their styles compliment each other totally; every page is a joy to behold. Sean Phillips might just edge Lark out. This book is stunning. Normally when I read I don’t linger over the art because I try to stay within the story, I try to keep moving. With this issue I found myself stopping after every page and admiring each panel. Sean Phillips was on the money with this issue and when he’s on the money there aren’t many better.

The first story arc in Criminal focused on a character named Leo, his gang, and the fallout from a heist gone wrong. It was excellent. This arc is better. Here we have Tracy Lawless, recently returned from the army and trying to find out who killed his little brother, Ricky. In order to do this he has assumed a fake identity and joined up with his brother’s old gang, one of which may have been the killer. Whereas the first arc was all about the post-heist action, this one is all pre-heist tension. The planning, the rehearsal, the “can we trust the new guy?” drama. And in the midst of all this you have Tracy running his murder investigation while trying not to blow his cover in a neighborhood where quite a few people know the name Lawless.

This issue is takes place on the night before the big heist, when it all starts to unravel for Tracy. By the time this issue is over, three people know his real identity and a bunch more are gunning for him as a result of a seemingly throwaway moment of crime that Tracy committed way back in the beginning of this story. It’s all coming to a head, and it’s all happening fast. And I can’t wait for the next issue.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of Sleeper, which many believe is Brubaker’s best work. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the male and female leads looks strikingly similar in both books and both contain similar undercover action. And both are awesome.

In an interview in the back of the book conducted by the late Dan Epstein, who was a friend and colleague of mine,  Brubaker says: “Every Criminal arc is building towards this big meta-arc that I want to tell after five or six different stories. I want to tell the story of what happened when Leo was a teenager, with him, Ricky Lawless, and Ricky Lawless’ dad.” I really, really hope that this book is successful enough to continue on because there is nothing I want to read more right now than that.

This was a crazy week for books. I haven’t bought this many — 15 — in a long time. There were a lot of big name releases, a lot of books I was really looking forward to and I had a ton of fun reading most of them. But there was only one book that caused me to hold my breath for the final 11 pages. There was only one book that would have had me biting my nails were I the sort that bit their nails. There was only one book that had me swooning over the art on every page and in every panel.

And that book was Criminal.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Conor Kilpatrick
I’m a big fan of the wooden ones.

Did you read Criminal #9? Add a comment and tell everyone what you think about this week’s comics!


  1. I thought I remembered it being your pick this week, walking around the comic shop made me really wonder where the POW was gonna land this time. The 100th show oughta be a doozey.

  2. Crap I haven’t read it yet. I was saving it for last. But green arrow year one was cool. But I can’t wait to read criminal now.

  3. Fantastic pick. For me this week, it was a toss up between this and JLA #13.

  4. Well i’m waiting for the trade for Criminal, and i can’t wait for it to come out…it’s like a paradox.

    Anyway, Teen Titans is my peek of the wick (cause it’s high up…on..a candle?). I’ve only been reading DC books for a couple weeks and i’m having lots of fun. The Titans from the future are bad ass and interesting, and their interactions with the Teen Titans have been really great. At this very early stage, i’m really enjoying McKeever’s take on the teen titans, particularly Robin. The art is really great as well, i particularly like the colorsist’s work…don’t quite know how to explain it for i am a comic noob, but oooooooooo prrrreeetttty

    Also, Captain America Chosen could become something quite special when it’s all said and done. Or it could end up being crap…

  5. Great pick– definitely would’ve been my POW this week, too.

    I had a large number of books this week, and almost all of them disappointed me. This book was great, and Green Arrow Year One was really good, but the rest of my books? I’m reminded of the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer attempts to return the bad peach to the store where he bought it. Could I do that with about 15 comic books?

    The first book I read, the book I was most excited about, was JLA 13. But it let me down. There’s only so many times I can watch the whole “JLA gets slowly captured, one by one, then sort of tortured but not killed, until the bad guys’ perfect plan falls apart and one JLA member frees the rest” scenario.

    Also, since when did these INjustice League criminals become the models of teamwork, planning, and efficiency?

    Anyway, maybe my stack wasn’t a bad as it seemed– maybe it just seemed bad after the great past 2-3 weeks. But, Criminal #9 would have been a good pick for ANY week.

  6. About time for another Criminal POW 🙂

  7. Hell yeah…good pick. I read this issue and I kind of new it would be holding the POW spot when I checked this morning.

    Oddly my other fave this week was not a new release–Picked up the first Tom Strong trade–Holy Socks I love it.

  8. 100% Agree. It’s tough because part of me says Justice League, another part says Iron Fist (and the Iron Fist Annual). But this is the best comic being done in the industry. I wish more people were buying it (just like Checkmate, which is arguably the best superhero book on the market).

    When I was reading it, I thought this was the last issue because it seemed like everything was being resolved, but leave it to Brubaker to pull the wool over my eyes. I thought that he showed Tracy’s cards too soon, but I trust him as a storyteller to have a reason. It’s worth the ride, so I’m riding shotgun until the end.

    Justice League suffers a little from its art.

    Iron Fist suffers a little from the fact that you have to read two comics and spend 6.98 for one title in one week. If that Annual (which there’s nothing actually wrong with) came out next week, I think I would have had to say that IF was this week’s POW and IF Annual was next week’s.

  9. I haven’t read Criminal yet. It is one of two books I have left to read from yesterday. What I did read (and very much enjoyed) was the two Iron Fist books. I really hope there is a Orson Randall mini series in the works. The flashbacks to his early twentieth century adventures were a lot of fun. The Pulp-ish hero team was sweet.

    What I did not like this week was the art in Justice League’s. Everyone seems much too slim to be doing superhero work. Maybe not everyone, but it was more than just the ladies.

  10. My pick was probably CRIMINAL too…and (sinful as it may be) I really liked ALL STAR BATMAN

  11. Love. Love. Loe Criminal. Especially this arc. The art is just breathtakingly gorgeous, and the writing is punch-in-the-gut-that-makes-you-grin good. I think this is even better than Sleeper, which is saying a lot.

    As you can tell, I am a big Brubaker fan. Having said that, I am not loving Daredevil OR Iron Fist, much to my surprise. I would have been the first person to recommend Bru as the perfect writer to replace Bendis on DD. But — maybe because Bendis set the bar so high — Daredevil feels a little flat to me, and… I guess I think that I don’t really know what the book is about. Like, with the Bendis run, the underlying theme of the book was, IMO, “Being Daredevil guts Matt’s life; why does he keep doing it?” And we essentially have an exploration of that, with everyone from Ben Urich to Foggy weighing in on this issue, while Matt tests the boundaries of personally self-destructinve behavior. And we are also getting a consistent and compelling Kingpin story at the same time.
    I don’t have the sense that, in those terms, Brubaker know what he wants to do with the book. What has Daredevil been “about” since he took it over?
    And Iron Fist has been fun and insteresting, but I still don’t feel like I care much about Danny Rand, or have much of a stake in his character. It is cool to learn all about the histor if the Iron Fists, etc., and I think that the book is getting better as it goes. But nothing has happened yet where I feel like I really care about Danny and I’m on his side. Unlike, say, Batman, he doesn’t have some simple, defining motivation for being IF, and they haven’t yet told the story that puts me in his head that way.

  12. Holy god that’s a lot of typos. I swear I actually speak english.

  13. My week was kind of lackluster, and my shop wasn’t able to get Criminal. Kind of a toss up between Iron Fist #9 and Green Arrow Y1 #5. The rest of my stuff was kinda meh.

    Actually pretty glad the Silver Surfer storyline in UFF is FINALLY over.

  14. Love Criminal!

    …and my goddamn gosh gimmie a darn it Batman!


  15. haven’t gotten a chance to read my books yet (for those of you following my story, yes, I did finally find a comic shop close to school that I can get to without a car), but the shop didn’t have Criminal because they only ordered ONE copy and it sold out before I got there. oh well… online stores here I come

  16. Dudes, this book was awesome this week. This is definitely one of my favorite series, and I can’t wait for the next issue. The art is great, the writing spectacular, and story lines are to die for. If you aren’t reading this book, you should have your eyes pryed open, like in Clockwork Orange, and read it!

    …Basically, I agree with the pick.

    A couple of notes:

    Is it me or is Countdown just getting worse and worse with each issue? The first 10 or so issues were good, but now, I’m so goddamned lost I don’t know what’s going on. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t buy any of the tie-in books.

    Also, I feel really disappointed in Kirkman’s Astonishing Wolfman. Not only is the story moving too fast, but the dialogue is really flat and the mysteries behind the characters feel really forced. I’m not enjoying this one so much.

    Batman was pretty fun this week, but I need to re-read it. I got all of the characters confused because there are just too many Batman wannabes. Overall, though, it was a fun arc, and I’m super excited for Tony Daniels pencils on this book next month!

    I second thoughts on the quality of Iron Fist. This annual was awesome (and pertinent) and the issue was really cool. I loved the naming of the moves in little captions during the fight. So kung fu, and so awesome.

    Overall, the week was pretty strong with standouts including The Spirit, Green Arrow: Year One and the titles mentioned above, but definitely not as good as past weeks. Still, I don’t regret a single purchase. Except for maybe Countdown.

  17. Nice pick. The first arc of Criminal was good. This one is great! It might just be the effects of the Criminal Universe settling in with me, but I am feelin’ Tracy’s story alot more than Leo’s.

  18. I just got to read my Criminal and it was the same old just as the rest of the book.

    Which is freaking awsome. I love this book. It’s books like this that are pushing me away from super hero comics.

  19. Criminal truly was the best book this week.
    I can’t say much beyond what conor said. The book all the way through was just fantastic.

    Iron Fist #9 was good as well but the Iron Fist Annual was a chore to read. the instant that I saw Chaykin’s art inside the book I almost threw the stupid thing across the room. I hate Chaykin’s art. The writing also was VERY different from the style that the original title is written. I wish I didn’t the 3.99 +tax on the dumb thing.

  20. Is anyone else noticing the fact that All-Star Batman has slid all the way into self-parody? I’ve never been keen on it, and it always being late did not help, but this issue was just so over the top it was like watching a bad Saturday Night Live sketch about Frank Miller writing Batman, if SNL did such skits.

    Every second word Batman said was “goddamn” which got so much attention when he first said it eight years ago in one of the first issues when he declared that he was indeed “the goddamn Batman”. Then he was (supposed to be) intense, now he’s just coming off like a drunk hobo that’s managed to sneak his way into a shopping mall and is yelling at the young female at the make your own t-shirt store because she won’t give him change for his hand drawn money.

    Really I would drop this book but I’m afraid to get off the train wreck.

    I think my POW would have been either JLA or X-Men First Class. JLA was just some good fun super-hero action and X-Men Fist Class is always fun in a cute sort of way and I think it always misses out on the love because it is clearly a throw back retro comic and maybe a bit too light weight. It was still fun.

  21. Nice post, Conor. I mean, I assume it’s nice, it BEGAN nice, but then I stopped reading so I wasn’t spoiled like old fruit. Still, I’ve been loving “Criminal” and I am not surprised–I really like it, obviously. While it does remind me of Sleeper, I still, whenever I see Lark and Brubaker working together, think of “Scene of the Crime”, which is a great book, a great example of the genre they seem to really shine in. Daredevil 100 aside, I just am in awe of what Brubaker is able to do.

    I still need to go back and read those essays in the last Criminal series. Has anyone read those? I just read most of my books before I go to bed and always promise myself I will read that stuff later…and never do.

    On a completely unrelated note, I read the New Ex-Men #42 from last week and I gotta say, I really liked it! Is it usually this fun?

    15 books…I am scared to go in on Saturday..!


  22. Unlike some others, I really didn’t enjoy the two Iron Fist books this week. I was all geared up to really get into the kung fu tournament, and then the two books took me on this detour, and I wound up reading all of this backstory about Orson Randall in the annual. And, I just don’t care about Orson Randall.

    I totally agree with TheNewton that “I wish I didn’t the 3.99 +tax on the dumb thing.”

  23. Ummm.. PAY “the 3.99 + tax on the dumb thing,” that is.

  24. I just read the “Coward” arc and thought it was wildly overrated.

  25. I just read the “Coward” arc and thought it was wildly overrated.

    I enjoyed “Coward” but I’m still able to admit that it wasn’t phenomonal. Have you been reading “Lawless” though? If you haven’t been than you should catch up on issues or definitely read it in trade. This second arc of Criminal is definitely leaps and bounds better than the first. The main character is much more interesting, and the plot is much more complex.

    P.S. Yeah my “3.99 +tax” quote was retarded. My brain tends to get way too far ahead of my hands.

  26. TheNewton: hey, I wasn’t trying to knock ya– I’m just anal. Anyway, I agree with you that the Lawless arc is better than the Coward arc, definitely.

  27. I didn’t get many books this week, I think six. Three of those books had people full on vomiting in them (Batman, JLA, Allstar BARTBW) so lesson learned this week. Put Batman in a book, alot of vomiting happens.

    Anyway my pick would have been JLA, it was just so much fun, and it’s been a while since I read a book with Batman that made me go “Bad ass” but those first few pages did it.

  28. I had 2 weeks worth of books today (missed last week, so had to catch up), so forgive the posible mention of older books:
    loved both Iron Fist books, but I just liked JLA a lot more than it. Even though I’m sure that they’re all gonna get out of whatever jam they’re in (most of them at least), I’m still finding myself getting nervous with all of what’s going on.

    Also, am I just imagining this or did I read in something that Geo-Force is traitor? I recall reading that somewhere, and I missed JLA 11 and 12 (dropped it right as it got good… damn) so I might have missed that. What’s the word on Geo-Force’s traitor status?

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