Retro Review: Criminal Vol 1 – Coward

Many people hear comics and graphic novels and they instantly think of super-heroes; this is not one of those books. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips bring crime fiction/noir to life in Criminal from Image Comics. The series is a collection of one off stories where you can read the volumes out of order.

The first book, Coward, is the story of Leo, a small time pick pocket who avoids the big score after one went bad. He’s driven back into big crime when a crooked cop has a score they need him for.

The story may have some noir tropes, but they are done differently and the end results are sometimes unexpected.

Brubaker is known for his crime writing and this book shows why; he writes shady characters well and can get you to care for the bad guy.

Phillips gritty style fits the story well; there aren’t many bright colors or flashy comic book panels in the book. He also brings a lot of detail to the look of the characters.

While I really did like the book, this volume might be the low point of the run; some of the later books are much more original and sucked me in more than this one did. I wouldn’t say skip the book (it’s entertaining), but go in knowing it’s not as amazing as some of the later stories.

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