Winners, Losers, and Survivors: A Crime Blog [Coward Review]

November; Production Process; Heist Movies:

Criminal Vol.1: Coward Review


Time to look at another crime comic classic with Criminal Vol.1: Coward, written by Ed Brubaker with art by Sean Phillips. Brubaker and Phillips have to be the best duo currently collaborating on comics, and their Criminal series has to be their finest work. The Criminal series revolves around the denizens of Center City, and their explorations into the corrupt land they inhabit. The majority of the comics feature a heist, all of which are insanely badass. The first story, Coward should be a movie, because it would be one of the greatest heist films of all time. 



Coward follows Leo Patterson, considered both a master heistman and a complete coward, but there is more to him than meets the eye. Two corrupt cops call Leo in to pull an armored car job with them. Leo knows not to trust the cops, but needs the money. He proceeds to plan the job, works out all the angles, but fails to realize just how deeply in trouble the two corrupt cops are, and what they are willing to do to save their own asses. This is all I can tell you about the story. Any crime fiction lover knows that there will be a double cross, but that doesn’t mean he/she can expect what comes after.


The main character Leo Patterson looks like Steve Buscemi and acts like Mr. Pink after the events of Reservoir Dogs. This should have been made into a movie years ago so Buscemi could play the role. Leo has both the buggy paranoia of a young Buscemi and the ruthless badassery of current Buscemi; this comic made into a film could have been the link between the two versions of the great actor.


The supporting cast is also wonderful, and every character introduced feels like a real person, no matter how small of a bit part they play. Brubaker and Phillips fleshed out their world quite well for being only one story into it. I can’t tell you much about the other characters because that will ruin the surprises, and some of them return to star in other stories later on in the series.


The heist happens in the middle of the story. It isn’t the best, but the setting is great and it gets real intense towards the end. All around the second half of the book –– post-heist –– is superior. The heist sets up the second half and shows the readers just how smart Leo is, but also makes it known that he still makes mistakes. This book does a great job at planning out the heist, and Brubaker certainly respects the detail work, just like Leo.

Phillips artwork is cinematic, but not in a way that’s like looking at a photograph with some coloring over it. Phillips knows how to use shadows to show the hidden parts of the city. He can show the dirt of the urban environment –– from the filth on the cheap apartments to the grit on the streets. The people are drawn very expressively, making them feel more alive. Emotions can be seen clearly on the character’s faces, and the reader doesn’t need to rely on text boxes and inner monologue to explain everything. The monologue is nice too, though sometimes unnecessary, but it keeps the reader in Leo’s head. That doesn’t mean Leo’s inner dialogue is telling us everything we need to know about him; Leo likes to keep his secrets.


Criminal vol.1: Coward is not the best of the series, but it is a great start. It’s as engaging as a great heist film, and should sure as hell be one. We are moving towards a time where massive cinematic universes, spanning multiple films, like the Tarantino-verse and Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hopefully one day there can be a Criminal-verse –– just keep the movies close to the books, because those books were made to be great films.

Phillips Criminal3

Favorite Scene: The part that takes place at Leo’s farm house starts intense, turns sweet, moves to tragedy and then returns again to intensity.

Written By Tyler Ducheneaux

Images by Sean Phillips

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