Overview

Not Reading This Series Is Criminal

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Criminal is one of the best series on the market today. New fans are being given another chance to jump on board. But how many will?

Writing about Criminal is a frustrating exercise for me. Let me explain.

First off, it is one of the best books on the market. However, there are only so many times and so many ways you can say how good something is before the words start to ring hollow or the advice begins to lose effect.

But no matter how many times we say how great Criminal is, it doesn’t translate into single issue sales. The trade paperback collections do fairly well, but each individual issue ranks consistently out of the Diamond 100. And while Marvel/Icon usually give a little more leeway for low selling titles that sell well as trades, there is no guarantee that the leeway will always exist.

Well, the powers that be are giving the fans another chance to jump on board as a new series, Criminal: The Sinners, begins. Once again, we here at Guiding Lines will try to convince you to add Criminal to your pull list.

You might have heard a lot of these arguments before. If you’ve heard them and picked up the book, then you can skip to the “Also out this week” section. If you’ve heard them and didn’t pick up the book, then you should listen again because obviously you need something repeated to make an impact.

Criminal is a crime noir comic. I’m sure fans of superhero books wouldn’t touch that genre with a ten-foot pole. Yeah, they like Ed Brubaker’s work on Captain America and Daredevil, but aren’t willing to take a chance on any story where the protagonist doesn’t wear a brightly-colored costume to work.

I have news for these people. Brubaker’s work on Criminal is so much better than his work on those two books that it’s silly. And I’m saying this as a man who loved his work on Cap and DD.

This series is in Brubaker’s wheelhouse, and he hits a home run every time he steps up to the plate. He constructs tales of desperate characters in a world where no one is innocent. Each story has twists and turns that keep you guessing from issue to issue all the way to the end. These stories are entertaining reads and well worth your investment.

There is also a mystical kind of synergy between Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. They form one of history’s best comic book creative teams and you get the chance to see them work together each and every month. Each man brings out the best in the other, resulting in a complete package for your comic reading enjoyment.

And yes, Criminal has been around since 2006, but each new storyarc is 100% accessible. One character might be a supporting player in one storyline and the lead character in the next, but you don’t need to know anything that has come before to enjoy the story you are reading now.

In an effort to sell this kind of accessibility, Criminal will no longer be an ongoing series but rather a line of reoccurring miniseries separated by non-Criminal projects by the Brubaker/Phillips tandem. Each new story will have a bright and shiny number one to showcase it instead of being buried in the middle of another series. So those of you put off by jumping on a series with high issue numbers will never have to worry about that again with Criminal.

I’d wager that everyone out there reading this now has at least one title they collect that they have completely lost interest in. Well, be strong. Drop that lackluster title for one month and pick up Criminal: The Sinners #1. Odds are that you’ll never look back again.

Also out this week:

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1:
It is quite possible that different generations of comic book fans view Brother Voodoo in many different ways. Older fans might fondly remember the character from Marvel’s horror resurgence of the 1970s. Younger fans might have no knowledge of the character other than the fact that he came virtually out of nowhere to become the Sorcerer Supreme in the pages of New Avengers.

However, fans of my generation might only know of Brother Voodoo as the butt of the joke of many of Fred Hembeck’s strips in Marvel Age. I can’t hazard a guess at how many comic buyers my generation holds, but the image in our minds of Brother…er..Doctor Voodoo as a buffoon would be hard to overcome. So the creators of this new ongoing have their work cut out for them.

Rick Remender (W), Jefte Palo (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Batman Annual #27:
A new Azrael is upon us and he will be getting his own series before the month ends (barring any unforeseen lateness). DC apparently thinks the character being introduced by Grant Morrison during the “Batman and Son” arc, reappearing in  “Battle for the Cowl” event and getting his own miniseries, Azrael: Death’s Dark Knight, wasn’t enough to give the revamped hero the push he needs. So they are featuring him in the annuals for the two Batman books this month as well.

This is not your older brother’s Azrael. It’s not Denny O’Neil’s or Joe Quesada’s either. His name is Michael Lane and he was one of the Bat-replacements to plague Batman during Morrison’s run on Batman. Instead of replacing Batman, he ends up replacing Jean-Paul Valley as Azrael. So, there you go.

Fabian Nicieza (W), J. Califore (A), DC Comics, $4.99. Annual.

Kill Audio #1:
When we last saw Coheed and Cambria lead singer Claudio Sanchez dabble in comic books, it was during his Amory Wars series over at Image. It appears Mr. Sanchez is branching out, not only in his writing but also in the companies he is partnering with. His latest effort comes to us from BOOM! Studios.

Sanchez’s latest opus revolves around a man named Kill Audio. Kill is a man searching for answers. Well, actually, only one answer. The question is, “Why Can’t He Die?” As various edged weapons escape his body, he makes his way to see Clockwork, the Keeper of Sight and Sound. Will he find what he’s looking for there? Or will the suspense be the one thing that does kill him?

Claudio Sanchez & Chondra Echert (W), Mr. Sheldon (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Chronicles of Wormwood: Last Battle #1:
Garth Ennis has never shied away from poking a satiric stick in the ribs of religion in general and the Catholic Church in specific. Preacher was a shining example of that, and it gained Ennis a legion of fans and a lot of prestige.

Ennis’ Chronicles of Wormwood series has been a return to many of the same themes he raised in Preacher, as it deals with the antichrist, a mentally challenged Jesus, and the threat of Armageddon.  Now, he returns to the franchise with a brand new miniseries.

If you are a fan of Ennis or his work on Preacher, then you might be well advised to check this one out. It should act as an ideal jumping on point for the concept.

Garth Ennis (W), Oscar Jimenez (A), Avatar Press, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

X-Babies #1:
Back in the 1980s, a big trend in pop culture was creating pre-adolescent versions of your characters. The major examples of this were Warner Brothers’ Tiny Toons and, more famously, Muppet Babies, which were featured in a long-running cartoon produced by The Jim Henson Company and, get this, Marvel Productions.

As this trend was in full bloom, Chris Claremont decided to satirize it in his X-Men books. He had Mojo, a grotesque parody of a TV network executive, create a de-aged version of the X-Men in an attempt to get ratings for his network. These mini-mutants were called the X-Babies.

The Muppet Babies became the property of Disney when they bought The Jim Henson Company. The X-Babies became the property of Disney when they bought Marvel. Now Disney owns the property that was on the forefront of the baby character craze and the concept created to parody it. That’s the circle of life for you. 

Gregg Schigiel (W), Jacob Chabot (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg Oct 6, 2009 at 5:38am

    Slight correction: As far as I know, Disney doesn't own the Jim Henson Company. They own the rights to Muppets. Henson still exists as a separate entity with other properties (Fraggle Rock, Dark Crystal, MirrorMask, the Jim Henson Creature Shop, etc.). As for the subject at hand, I love Criminal. Great series. One of only a handful of Marvel books I'm currently following.

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