Comic Review: Criminal – Coward (Icon)

Criminal: Coward (Icon)
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips

Ed Brubaker (Daredevil; Uncanny X-Men) and Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies) join forces for a tightly plotted crime tale of diamonds, drugs and deceit…

There aren’t many crime comics on the shelves these days. In fact, nobody has really resurrected the genre since the heyday of 1950s when the likes of Shock SuspenStories and EC shockers ripped stories from the headlines and turned them into eight-page disposable thrillers.

There have been a few interesting twists in Frank Miller’s Sin City, which made noir almost farcical, Brian Michael Bendis’ Torso and, more recently, Darwyn Cooke’s take on The Spirit. But nothing followed in the direct tradition of Raymond Chandler or Elmore Leonard until Criminal hit stores in 2006. With dialogue that wouldn’t look out of place in either of those writers’ novels and the sort of low down characters you might find in a Tarantino flick, Brubaker’s marriage of cool-talking and lawless abandon is epitomised by Leo, Coward’s protagonist. When Leo is offered the chance to walk away with $5 million in diamonds from a cop-organised diamond heist, he doesn’t spend too long weighing up the cons.

Seasoned comics readers will be surprised by the level of conflict and complexity Brubaker injects into his characters — you can feel these hoodlums breathe on the page. Phillip’s stark artwork, heavy with the black ink and subtle with the details, brings to life the crooked and dirty streets of a nameless
city.

Best of all, the conclusion to this self-contained story comes from leftfield, but doesn’t feel contrived. This is fantastic storytelling that goes beyond mere comics, it begs to become celluloid.

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