I can almost hear my Dad talking when I read this comic. I love watching crime movies with my Dad because he's always afraid that I'm going to start wanting to be a crook or something. "Don't do drugs. Why would anyone want to be a criminal? What kind of life is that?" It makes me laugh. If I was going to go down that road, I'd think I would have by the time I'm 33 years old, you know?
Anyway, what I love about Criminal is the great view we get into the seedy low-lifes who make up all the levels of the criminal hierarchy. You've got crime bosses, their kids, their legbreakers, and the ladies who love them. Fascinating stuff. This trade takes a look at 3 characters interacting in the 70s, with the POV characters being a made boxer, a Viet Nam vet trying to make ends meet after the war (and knocking over the wrong guy), and a woman who loved both the boxer and his best friend (the son of a crimelord). It is riveting stuff. I particularly felt for the vet who couldn't really make himself try to be a good guy, even though he saw what he was doing to his kids. The line about how he felt sick with worry for them, but wouldn't resent them for that for years was heartbreaking. We've seen that guy's sons in stories set later, and they end up about how you'd expect. What is so tragic about these stories is that everyone involved gets chewed up and spit out, no one is happy. Yet I can't look away, it's really interesting stuff. Brubaker does a great job getting the reader to care about these people who would be awful to know in real life. These are the stories you read, then can't stop thinking about when you try to go to sleep.
Sean Phillips has this style of art perfected. He can do a gun battles, beatings, hot girls, and anguished faces. He's practically an institution for these crime books now. He's perfect for it.