Criminal‘s “Cruel Summer” arc is not about plot. It has a thrilling setup, but Brubaker and the Philips are more interested in the inner lives of their misanthropic cast. Now the focus shifts outside of the Lawless home to Ricky’s friend, Leo.
Unsurprisingly, the two ruffians are up to no good, with #9 spent dwelling on a robbery attempt of theirs. Big surprise, things do not go smoothly.
An overarching theme of Criminal is nostalgia, and how people try to move on from but incessantly dwell on the past. Trapped. Leo misses the old days: when it was just him, his uncle, and his old man at the fair, pickpocketing. But like Ricky, Leo is frustrated by his father’s change of attitude. Leo can’t just rely on his family anymore, safe in the backseat. He’s becoming an adult. But because of his upbringing, his idea of “maturity” is pulling off an amateur heist.
Without spoiling how the robbery goes down, it spills even more ink on Leo’s psychological blotter. While others tremble with fear at conflict, Leo embraces it to an eerie degree.
Firstly, I have to mention that Sean and Jacob Philips’ art sinks us into atmosphere with every panel and page. However, there are some problems. Several times, Sean gets a case of the “Frank Miller heads,” where adults and children (but mostly the latter) have inflated craniums bobbling atop scrawny bodies. Always makes me think of those corny Airheads commercials—and I do not want to be thinking of that while reading Criminal.
Also, Leo is supposed to be Ricky’s age, i.e., a teenager. But the way shadows fall on Leo’s face, his age looks like it slides from thirty to seventy. Perhaps you could argue that’s the point—that this alludes to him trying to grow up all too fast. Yet, that’s a far too surrealist bend for such relatively grounded pulp fare. Also—that’s a dumb, confusing idea that I’m pretty sure wasn’t the intent (I hope).
Quick note: if you need a reason to buy this issue individually, the ever-awesome purveyor of scuzzy cinema, Kim Morgan, wrote an essay in the back about Gunman’s Walk. One of these days she’ll write about a movie I’ve seen. But that’s fine, because now I have another flick to go on my watchlist.
Overall, despite some spotty faces, this continuation of “Cruel Summer” continues taking delight in an interrogating, character-centric crawl.