There’s a wide range of stories available in the world. A lot of different stories being told differently, and then there’s clichéd stories being told the same way. Then there are stories that don’t seem to be stories but just happenings within a character’s life. These stories are generally extremely depressing, try to create the illusion of depth without actually having any depth to speak of, and usually fail to go anywhere. I’m sorry to say that Criminal is one of these comics.

By Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Criminal tells the story of a boy who is being neglected by his criminal father. His father is looking for someone, and drags his boy along the road in order to help in keeping a low profile. The boy doesn’t like living this way, especially since his father is neglectful and psychologically abusive, but at this particular town he makes a friend, which throws a spanner into the works.

Criminal is incredibly well-written. The use of language is quite masterful and creates an illusion of depth as described in the introduction. It makes things seem like there’s more behind the story than there is, but then you read the story and find out – there isn’t.

The comic is decidedly defeatist. I’m going to use some spoilers here because the comic can really be summed up in three lines. Son is being used by father for criminal activity, in a town boy makes friend he’s not allowed to have, son decides to put up with the hell of living life with his father rather than run away. And that’s essentially it. I can’t put any kind of themes or motifs or symbols into it at all, but the writing makes it seem like there should be. The illusion of depth.

I feel like the writer just wanted to make something “deep”, but in their pursuit of depth they created a shallow story, with uninteresting characters and a brief sex scene which just feels completely gratuitous and out-of-place.
The art is good and easily understandable. But aside from this and some good writing, it’s difficult to really praise anything about Criminal. The comic doesn’t seem to say anything, or speak in any volumes about anything. It’s just “here are some characters, this is what they do.” Even more difficult than to specifically say anything good or bad about it, is to just say something about it. It’s hard to say things about a comic that doesn’t say anything, and Criminal is so flat and lifeless it feels like a day at Keira Knightley’s acting academy. 1/5 stars.

STORY BY Ed Brubaker
ART BY Sean Phillips
COLORS BY Elizabeth Breitweiser
COVER BY Sean Phillips
PUBLISHER Image Comics

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