CRIMINAL 10th Anniversary Issue Reviewed
CRIMINAL: The 10th Anniversary Issue
Having spent the winter moving to a new house, I came across a poster tube with a beautiful print of the Criminal #3 cover that’d I’d been misplacing on and off again for years. The shipping label had a date that was hard to believe and I shrugged it off until a few days later when I saw an announcement that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips were celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Criminal with the release of a new issue. How has it been a decade of looking for extra wall space and a reason to frame the poster, and how has my favorite series been around that long?
To commence their celebration, Brubaker and Phillips released another meta comic within a comic, a one shot flashback (magazine-sized variant available on special order) that picks up with pre-teen Tracy Lawless acting as driver for his father, Teeg while he robs a series of gas stations.
Tracy has long since learned to stay out his father’s way and he tries to piece together if Teeg’s on the run again or if there’s a larger purpose as they stop off occasionally for Teeg to make inquires. While Teeg hopes to pick up the trail of an associate in hiding, Tracy passes the time with an issue of Deadly Hands of Fang, the Kung-Fu Werewolf, pieces of which are interjected through out the father-son road trip narrative.
Throughout the Criminal series, the explorations of family dynamics, those forged by circumstance and by blood have played an important role, never more so than with the Lawless clan. Dipping back into Tracy’s childhood, Brubaker digs deeper into Teeg’s influence and the cycles of violence that shaped the Lawless family, who have slowly become the backbone of the Criminal universe. In previous arcs, Tracy is a detached, hardened professional nearly impossible to imagine as a kid, eagerly in search of back issues of a comic book and wasting away summer afternoons, not just someone born into easy violence.
In this one-shot, Brubaker and Phillips show the loneliness of a kid, adrift, and the escapism that reading brings to his troubled life. Trading cityscapes for the open expanses of small, grimy rural towns, Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser create a visual 70s road movie cast in soft, saturated hues that appropriately never feel nostalgic, but carry an ominousness that this trip can only end in tragedy.