Graphic Novel Review: Criminal, Vol. 6: The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
Genre: Noir, Crime
Publisher: Marvel (December 2011)
Wendy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Brubaker and Phillips are known for their off-the-wall noir storytelling, so it is no surprise to see all the noir elements at play in their Criminal series. But volume 6, The Last of the Innocent, adds an unusual visual twist by combining the dark, gritty noir vibe with a bright, cartoony style reminiscent of Archie comics.
The Archie similarities go far deeper than the art, though, as Brubaker spins a story of a man named Riley Richards. Riley has it all, thanks to his marriage to the beautiful, lusty rich girl. But it’s the girl-next-door that he really wants. When the death of Riley’s father draws him back to his backwater home town of Brookview, he begins plotting murder.
Basically, this is a cautionary tale for Archie, warning him that Betty was always the better choice over Veronica. That might seem like just a joke to you, or, if you’re an Archie fan, you might not like the idea of having your favourite characters presented so darkly, but for me, this was a stunning read, particularly because of how the story plays out around Riley’s best friend, Freakout. Freakout is a drug addict, and spends his time either high and constantly eating (sound familiar?), or looking for his next hit. When Riley returns to Brookview, Freakout is on the road to recovery, with an entire year drug free. But what are best friends for, if not to be the perfect alibi for murder?
Through Freakout, Brubaker gives heartbreaking look at friendship and loyalty, and forces us to question happiness and the lengths some might go to attain it.
Or the illusion of it.
This is the sixth volume of the series. There are small connections to the other volumes, which you can discern through the cover images of the other books, but the stories within each volume stand on their own.