Criminal No. 3 review: Bad Weekend, part 2 feels real


Criminal tells a true crime story like no-one else can.

Sometimes you read a comic and when you’re done you say “meh”, and you read another one. Criminal, written by the eminent Ed Brubaker, drawn by the illustrious Sean Phillips and colored by his son, Jacob Phillips, is the kind of comic that you finish and then you exhale a sigh of gratitude, gratitude for having been allowed to witness true artistic perfection. And then you read it again.

The drop of the other shoe, the classy reveal at the end, the plot twist you never saw coming; Brubaker is a literal master of the art of deception and distraction, and Phillips and son bring a lived-in, gritty reality to the page in a way few artists are capable of. This issue ends a two-part story, and has a fantastic dissertation of “The Color of Money” from Kim Morgan following the afterword.

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Criminal tells the story of criminals being criminals, without the fancy frills

Last issue, Jacob Kurtz, former comic book artist and current forger, was hired to chaperone cantankerous old Hal Crane to a comic awards ceremony, and gets caught up in the old man’s plot to retrieve some stolen comic pages during the event.

This issue starts out with Kurtz reliving one of his favorite memories of Crane, with whom he worked back in the 80’s; Crane, who usually condescended to Kurtz on the regular, brings him down to his personal library and shows him newspaper clips Crane himself cut out when he was a child, and Kurtz can see the joy talking about those aged comics still brings the ornery old man.

The angles and shading by the Phillips’ is simply resplendent. Later, Kurtz and Crane meet up with Kurtz’s associate, Ricky Lawless, a career criminal, to forge a plan to break into the home of the man Crane suspects has his stolen drawings.

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A failed crime, and a darker secret stays hidden

Ricky breaks into the apartment of the man suspected of owning the stolen comics, and Kurtz and Crane come along, thinking it won’t be dangerous. The man admits to having stolen comics, but not the ones Crane is looking for. They leave, and later, at a bar, Crane is about to bail on attending the ceremony he was flown into to town for, when Ricky convinces him to not only go, but to basically insult everyone he thinks took advantage of him, all those years of cartooning.

At the ceremony, Crane surprises Kurtz by giving a respectful speech and behaving calmly, only to sucker-punch his old boss right as he’s getting off stage, and a further altercation causes Crane and Kurtz to end up in the back of a police car. Crane identifies which stolen pages he was looking for, and it turns out that Jacob Kurtz had them all along, locked away in his safe.

The poignancy of the stolen pages being in Kurtz’s possession all along, due to a drunken confession of terrible choices long ago, is truly heart-wrenching. Brubaker has woven details of real-life comic artist’s sad failings and terrible losses into this two-parter, giving it just the right touch of credibility.

Next. Saya begins her revenge in Deadly Class No. 37!. dark

The essay at the end, about how “The Color of Money” is essentially about a burnt-out master taking advantage of a promising novice, showcases Kim Morgan’s penchant for striking right at the heart and morals of a good film. 10/10, highly recommended. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.