“Cruel Summer” continues, but this time the POV has changed. Last issue, Teeg hooked up and went on the run with Jane, likely the femme fatale of this arc. Where’d they flee to? Well, this issue answers that question: they hide out in Lawson’s home much to the annoyance of his son, Ricky.
My major complaint about Criminal #6 was how it didn’t have much tension. If Brubaker wants to tell a Bonnie and Clyde story, we need to feel that their enemies are always right behind them, that is, if they’re on the run.
Well, Brubaker doesn’t ratchet up the tension here; Teeg and Jane are bumming around town. But by switching the perspective to Ricky, that decision kind of works while we wait for things to, in the writer’s own words at the end, “get more f*cked up from here on in.”
While this story is all about, well, criminals, we identify with the characters because the emotions they undergo are universal. And in Ricky’s case, the domestic circumstances are familiar to us. Anybody who’s had a single parent date somebody else can feel for Rick, even if he’s a troublesome little brat. More broadly, anybody who’s felt ignored can identify. There are a lot of complex things going on here.
Rick doesn’t like his dad. After all, Teeg’s a bad hombre and treats his kid poorly. But when Teeg exhibits happiness with Jane, smiling and calling Ricky “champ,” Ricky confides to us that he preferred the assh*le version. Insights like that elevate this from being cliché or dull.
In fact, this whole issue might be considered a “hang out” joint. This could be a standalone issue that just follows this kid pissing off his D&D party by stabbing and whoring, getting a homeless guy to buy him beer, being chased by the cops, and crashing at a pal’s house because there are some, er, loud noises at his house. You have to appreciate how 2019 Criminal is content to sit back and exude atmosphere, serving as a pedestal for character development.
We all know how great Sean and Jacob Phillips are. They’re incredibly consistent, so I’ll just mention some extra little details on top of their already masterful pages. First—how great is it to read a comic where kids or teenagers look their age? I shudder to think of John Romita Jr.’s balloon-headed children in Superman: Year One in contrast to this.
Next, the apparel, which is not something I often, if ever, consider in comics (much less movies I must admit). When the Lawson clan goes out for dinner, notice that Teeg’s wearing a fitting tie even when he leaves while Ricky loosens his right out of the door. Obvious details in retrospect, I know, but these little beats and details show how focused and dedicated the creative team is.
So far, Jacob Phillips has avoided too many primary colors through Criminal. However, when he hits on them, it’s for a real purpose, which exhibits an acumen on level with John Higgins or Jordan Boyd. When we get primaries—like red—it’s searing.
I know I’ve neglected to mention the fantastic backmatter before, so let me reveal that we get an article on Rumble Fish by Kim Morgan. Now I really gotta see it.
In a disarming turn, the tension is further deflated from this arc. But it’s in service of an endearing albeit rough-edged portrait of the Lawless gang.
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