Sunday, 26 November 2017


In Lawless, a previous volume of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal series (you can link to my review here) we saw how Terry Lawless escaped from the Army, for whom he served as an assassin, and headed home to avenge his brother's murder. He wound up having to work off his father's debt by acting as a strong arm and killer for the mob chief, Mr. Hyde (there is a continuity of sorts in the underworld of the Criminal series).

Now someone is knocking off made men all over town, and Mr. Hyde pulls Terry off his usual work to investigate who and why. And to stop it, obviously. Which means Terry will be put into confrontations with all the likely suspects. And there's one further complication: Terry is sleeping with Hyde's younger wife Elaine, who's son is dying of cancer, and thus needs expensive treatment, just as much as she needs solace or release.

The beauty of Criminal is the way Brubaker hews to noir, not just the themes but deep into the motivations. It is indeed a dark world, no one's motivations are perfect, and nothing, none of the institutions who structure society for those who believe in them, are what they seem to be. Just as much as Lawless, The Sinners is at heart about family, and the ways in which they create obligations, feelings which are not as much chosen as inherited, and the ways in which that makes people vulnerable.

An affair with the boss' girl is a marker of danger any fan of noir will recognise; Elaine's instinct as a mother is a motivation stronger than Terry's obligations to his brother or his father, the latter the one forced on him. And as with Lawless these motivations are not toyed with as the story resolves itself in pretty much the only way you'd think it could. Because this is a noir world Lawless inhabits, and the rules of noir are based above all on their inevitablity. Excellent.

written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips
Image Books,  £13.99, ISBN 9781632152985

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