I keep changing my mind as to how I feel about this miniseries, sometimes from one page to the next. On a craft level, it’s brilliant. Sean Phillips is one of the masters of the nine-panel grid, and, even in an issue with a lot of talking heads, his pages never feel static. That’s classic Criminal. Then there’s the gimmick peculiar to this mini, which is the mix of Phillips’s standard style (representing the present) with the more cartoonish flashbacks (representing an idealized past; give a big assist to Dave Stewart’s shifting color palette as well.) This works because protagonist Riley Richards is the hero of an Archie-style teen comedy, all grown up into a very badly-behaved adult. Seeing dirty gags embedded into a cheery faux-innocent art style was worth a transgressive laugh or two at the beginning of this series, but after three issues, the – forgive me — archness is wearing thin. Past Criminal stories show that writer Ed Brubaker is capable of aiming higher. The emotional gut punch at the end of the Lawless arc ranks it among the best of the modern noir comics. In contrast, Last of the Innocent feels like the long setup of a nasty joke. To the book’s credit, though — I can’t wait for the punchline.
Criminal : The Last of the Innocent #3 is a mean book as Riley Richards looks like he’s gotten away with murder. His plot to kill his wife and return to his childhood home went off without a hitch and it looks like he’ll get away scott free. In Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ past Criminal stories, the hero has always been the person who sunk into the abyss, deep over their heads in garbage and crime. But not Riley, good old Riley who looks to actually have it together and thinks that the’s on his way to a happy ending. Of course, in Brubaker and Phillips’ books, there are no innocents, although Riley’s wife may have come close to it, and there are no winners. Brubaker and Phillips show us how one man can live so much in his own little imagined world that he can’t see how his real world is about to fall down around him.