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Criminal (Vol. 2) #6

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2008
By: Matthew J. Brady

Ed Brubaker
Sean Phillips
Marvel Comics/Icon
Editor's Note: Criminal #6 arrives in stores tomorrow, October 22.

"Bad Night, Part 3"

One of the best comics around continues its latest storyline, adding another tense chapter onto the saga of Jacob, a cartoonist and ex-counterfeiter who gets dragged into a heist when he meets a strange woman and falls in love (or lust, more likely) with her. After the events of the previous chapter, he and Iris have to dispose of a body, and it's the kind of tense situation that pops up in lots of crime stories, leading to constant nervousness about being found out. Worse yet, it turns out that Jacob is in over his head, and he has no idea what has been going on while he has been busy thinking with a less rational part of his body than his brain. As the penultimate chapter of the story, we get revelations and cliffhangers; how is he going to get out of this pickle, and will he learn anything from it?

Well, as crime stories go, he probably won't learn anything, but the audience probably will, even if it's only that it's best to experience the thrill of illicit activity through the medium of fiction rather than experience it firsthand. Ed Brubaker is an excellent storyteller when it comes to this sort of noir tale, doling out the revelations at just the right pace to keep the reader on their toes as they follow Jacob through his frantic search for answers. He keeps it all plausible, but just far enough outside the realm of normal experience that we both understand what is going on and get a thrill of the unknown.

Brubaker is helped immensely, as always, by Sean Phillips, who continues to nail the moody atmosphere of the tale perfectly. Whether it's the abandoned warehouses suitable for dumping bodies, or a normal house, the images look perfect, and the way he creates the shadows that play across the characters' faces as they deal with their unfortunate circumstances is breathtaking. Val Staples' coloring adds a lot to the mood; a scene in which a woman slaps a man gets bathed in a shocking bright red, and a love scene has a sensual pink background. It's lovely. Most fascinating is Phillips' depiction of a visit to a strip club; he makes it look seedy and run-down, with ugly men leering at unappealing women and everything looking dingy and horrible. It's pretty striking. And that's not even getting into the cool dream sequences, or Jacob's visions of his cartoon character following him around. As great as Brubaker's writing is on this title, Phillips' art definitely equals, and maybe even surpasses, it.

So, surprise, surprise, it's another excellent issue of the best series Marvel publishes. If Brubaker and Phillips don't get to keep doing this book indefinitely, the world will be poorer for it. Be sure the check it out so that doesn't happen.







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