After taking a number of months off to collaborate on their recent hit series Incognito, Brubaker and Phillips return to their critically acclaimed Criminal with “The Sinners”, their first arc to revisit a protagonist. After the events of the stellar “Lawless” from a couple years back, Tracy Lawless finds himself in deep with the wrong kind of people. Working as a hitman for a major criminal, Tracy quickly begins to outweigh his usefulness, insistent on investigating his targets to ensure that only the bad men die, so when his boss offers him an out – find out who’s been knocking off the town’s major players – he jumps at the chance.
And so begins the next chapter of the Brubaker/Phillips noir masterpiece. Despite being a direct sequel to “Lawless”, the book stands easily on its own, what meager exposition is necessary quickly given in a few terse sentences. Lawless remains a compelling character, and a good choice on which to hang a sequel, and it only takes a couple pages to get back into the rhythms of Brubaker’s brief, dark dialogue.
Phillips fares better here than he did on the nonetheless-excellent Incognito. While he is talented enough to have adapted to the superheroic style there, his dark, static images function much better in the shadowy world of these particular lowlifes.
Criminal: The Sinners #1 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t need to. Brubaker and Phillips made crime comics cool again, and the effortless ease with which the pair slides us into their world makes it easy to see how. Fans of the series are sure to embrace this latest entry, while new readers don’t need to worry about alienation.
– Cal Cleary