Guest Review – Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1
Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Sean Phillips & Val Staples
In a summer when event comics, tie-ins, and reboots are packing the shelves it’s nice to finally read a comic that doesn’t matter.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, joined once again by the unmatched talent of Val Staples, are back with the latest entry into the Criminal universe, Last of The Innocent. The issue holds true to all the Criminal stories before without being bogged down with any continuity and at the same time inviting new readers to take a step into the world.
The story opens with Riley Richards, the main character and our narrator, falling into the familiar noir trappings of leaving his big city life and heading back to his small home town because of an ailing family member. Along the way, the story flashes back to Riley’s childhood and teenage years, his reuniting with long time friends from the past, and introduces his wife, Felix, and their meeting. The twenty-four page comic feels longer than its page count with each page and panel filled to the tipping point with story.
Ed Brubaker’s distinct voice comes through each character and inner monologue, all the while letting them grow and breathe into separate and believable characters. Brubaker uses Riley’s inner monologues perfectly; blending thoughts and feelings with simple narration to further the plot and give the readers a feel for Riley and the other characters. The Jim Thompson-David Goodis influence is felt on every page and in every word, but Brubaker spins his new twist on the old school and keeps it all feeling fresh.
Sean Phillips takes every single page, panel, character, store front, diner and car and turns them into a living, breathing town. From the first time Riley steps foot into his hometown, it feels like every small town you’ve ever been and felt comfortable in.
The noir staples are all there; the shadow-skewed faces, dark rooms, and silhouettes, but Phillips shows that his skills aren’t limited to just that and moves the story out into the open sunlight of the town for a good portion of the story. Also of note, something that previous Criminal readers will notice immediately, is that in every new story Sean Phillips tries something new. Flashbacks are drawn in a style and color that makes you feel like Archie, Jughead, and the rest of the gang could walk across the panel at any time while still feeling distinctly Sean Phillips and Criminal. Phillips illustrates Brubaker’s stories perfectly and Val Staples colors them like no one else could.
The Last of the Innocent is the perfect foot in the door to the Criminal universe. Highly Recommended.