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Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #1 [Review]

The Last of the Innocent part 1

By: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
With: Val Staples
Published by: Icon/Marvel

I’d pretty much forgotten the existence of this title. It seems to be a series of mini-series, each serving as a particular character or story arc. I’ve never disliked an issue I’ve read, but one of the best things about Criminal is the same thing that’s kept me from getting invested: the stories are full. Read just one issue, and there’s a full enough story there that it’s almost hard to believe the thing continues.

This issue follows Riley as he journeys back to his hometown to see his father before a risky surgery, and reconnecting with old friends and old memories. Of course, the trip nicely coincides with an itch to get away from debt he owes to some legbreakers and provides a chance to grab some quick cash to pay them off.

The story itself is very down to earth and realistic. No superpowers, no superheroics, no supervillains, no world-conquering invading armies, no wars or proclaimed crises of any kind. The characters are all believable if not stereotypical, and there’s some great allusion that serves to add even more depth to these characters and at one point left me actually laughing at picturing the alluded-to character acting in this way.

The art is simple yet detailed. It doesn’t try to be photorealistic, and simply depicts the characters. And the flashbacks being done in an even simpler style of old comic strips (in the vein of Archie, most recognizably to me) adds to the sense of layering and allusion.

The end of the issue is both ending–stopped here, it leaves plenty to the imagination. But it also–since it DOES promise more–piques the curiosity and leaves me wondering what comes next, especially for a book called Criminal, from Brubaker.

There may be some stuff here that I’m simply not getting, references or characters from some previous story. But if there is, I don’t see it, and I’d say it’s non-essential. I picked this up cold, and enjoyed it for itself. This is a brand new story, a brand new #1, and a great jumping-on point. All you need to know, I’d say, is that this is a creator-owned property from Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips, about very realistic people in a realistic world, if a bit noir-ish, and that the title Criminal fits the content.

Highly recommended.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

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Justice League of America #28 [Review]

Welcome to Sundown Town Chapter 2: Shadow and Act

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciller: Jose Luis
Inks: JP Mayer
Color: Pete Pantazis
Letters: Travis Lanham
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Ed Benes w/Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

I wasn’t gonna pick this up. I was gonna content myself with waiting for a collected volume, or just waiting for the Milestone characters to pop up in other books. But curiosity got the better of me, and so I picked this up after all.

There’s not much of a plot here–the bulk of the issue is a lengthy fight scene between the League and the Shadow Cabinet. However, toward the end of the issue theres a slight bit of a twist that both bucks cliche and yet manages to play right in familiar old cliche none the less.

I find myself much more interested in finding out more about the Milestone characters than I am about the Justice League, and so am possibly more disappointed in this issue than I should be. I would gladly (and with enthusiasm) picked up a mini-series re-introducing these characters that guest-starred members of the Justice League; as it is, the Milestone characters don’t get enough focus-time in this issue (though they get far more than in the previous one). I’m also quite interested in the Icon/Superman interaction(s).

The art here–while not Benes–is quite good, and similar enough to Benes’ work that I thought nothing of the art until I looked at the credits, and realized that sure enough, this wasn’t Benes. I was particularly impressed with the final page–which also has me sufficiently hooked as to pick up the next issue more than likely.

All in all, not a bad issue. Worth getting if you want to see the Milestone characters that are appearing in this arc.

Story: 7/10
Art: 8.5/10
Whole: 8/10

Justice League of America #27 [Review]

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inkers: Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Norm Rapmund & Drew Geraci
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover: Benes w/Hi-Fi
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue shows the Shadow Cabinet in action, attempting to do their thing without bringing down the wrath of the Justice League…unfortunately for them, their acting with (the female) Dr. Light doesn’t go smoothly, and the Justice League is pulled into things. Meanwhile, other interactions are going on between certain characters, apparently moving their stories forward; particularly an awkward moment between Red Arrow and Hawkgirl, as well as Black Canary confronting the “Big Three” about their upper-level clique compared to the rest of the League.

I really can’t complain about the art. Benes has a certain style that really works for me, with plenty of detail and not too much in the way of being ‘stylistic’–the visuals are straight-forward and clear, easy to follow and nice to look at (though there’s a bit of gratuitousness I could definitey do without). Visually, this is a high-quality book.

I’m fairly mixed on the story. It’s been a couple years since I’ve read an issue of this title, so I’m understanably outta the loop–there are things going on here that either pass me by or just come outta the blue, I’m sure, given my not being “up” on the book. I really don’t get a sense who any of these Shadow Cabinet characters are, though. I know that this is apparently their introduction into the DCU and that the Milestone characters are being integrated as if they’ve always been present–all that meta-textual stuff I’m clear on. I just don’t feel that in-story there was much of anything to give a good sense of the characters’ individuality; for all I’d otherwise know, they’re generic charcters made up to throw some conflict at the Justice League. At the same time, this is an issue that’s gotta focus on the title characters–the existing members of the Justice League involved in the ongoing story arcs; we’re also introduced to the members (I count seven) of the Shadow Cabinet…making for a huge cast of characters.

I bought this issue for the Milestone characters. I remember picking up some of the Milestone books back in the day, particularly the Worlds Collide crossover with the Superman books at the time (I don’t recall if they crossed with other DC books or not). My expectations are probably higher than could really be reasonably delivered by a standard-sized single issue; I was excited, though, to learn this past summer that the Milestone characters would be returning, integrated as part of the DCU, and have looked forward to this since.

Not having followed this title, I can’t speak to the issue in context of the overarching ongoing stuff; but I was definitely left underwhelmed having picked this up to see the Milestone characters interacting with the DC characters–looks like that’ll come next issue, with this more as a bit of setup.

Worthwhile if you’re following the title, but if you’re picking this up for the Milestone stuff, it looks like you’d be better off waiting til issue 28 to really see the characters interact.

Story: 6/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 7/10

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