Criminal Volume 5: The Sinners
Published by: Image Comics
Released on: June 5, 2015
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Cover Artist: Sean Phillips
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The absolutely fantastic serial from one of the best crime story comic book duos ever to grace the scene continues with a reprinting of the five-issue series “The Sinners”. Originally published in 2009 by Icon (followed by a TPB the same year), the fifth story in the Criminal world is brought to new readers courtesy of Image Comics and those of us who did not catch these Brubaker/Phillips works should thank them for it. Their collaborations are always top-shelf and their Criminal material is seriously engrossing comic book entertainment.
The Sinners tells the story of Tracy Lawless after he’s come back from war in the Gulf, back from military prison, and done with cleaning up the mess after his little brother was killed by the company he kept (all back in Volume 2: Lawless). Tracy reluctantly works for the city crime boss, Sebastian Hyde, just as his father did years ago, as a hit man. Tracy is not one to react before thinking and he likes to be certain his targets really deserve to die for the way they wronged Hyde. His method of operation is a thorn in the side of Hyde, but not as big a thorn as what Tracy does to him later on.
Some big names in the city, untouchables really, are being murdered by someone who leaves no calling card or evidence, and the murders are without witnesses. Some is someone gaining access to criminal figureheads despite their goons being close by and Hyde wants to know who it is and wants them stopped. The bulk of the story follows Tracy through the underbelly of the city digging up information and tripping over bodies along the way. But his mind isn’t totally on the case, as there is a little lady friend who occupies a fair amount of his time and affections and has plans for the two sinners. Tracy just wants to get this last job done and they can get away together and leave the slime ball town behind them. Uh huh, sure...that’ll happen. He’s got one other thing to contend with as well: a military investigator tracking him down to bring him back to military lock-up.
Those who have read other volumes of Criminal will of course know that NO ONE is safe in these stories and people die you might not expect (or want) to die. But what’s cool about the way Brubaker writes the stories is that yeah someone may be dead, but they might show up in the next volume in a story that took place two years before. His writing style, at least on this series, is filled with sleaze, sex, nasty bouts of violence, and a lot of bad people. But even though just about every character we encounter is a real piece of shit, Brubaker is great at making the reader like, and route for, the main piece of shit in the story. Tracy Lawless is a great character, complex yet transparent, and this being his second story with him as the lead character really puts him on top as a favorite. And this series should put Brubaker up there as a favorite too, if he already isn’t.
If you’ve not read all the other volumes, don’t despair. These books do have continuity, but it doesn’t follow the typical story progression. You don’t have to read them in order to follow or understand the entire picture as they jump around across multiple decades; some characters show up as younger or older, depending of course on the era the particular tale resides in. Just pick one up, this one in fact, and start pouring through it. You won’t regret it.