By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (art) & Dave Stewart (colors)

The Story: Will Reilly get away with killing his wife in this Archie-inspired Criminal series?

What’s Good: I’ve heard writer Ed Brubaker give interviews saying that once he’s done being a hot-shot “Marvel architect”, he’d like to spend the end of his career writing Archie comics.  Well, I guess we now know the kind of Archie comics he’d write.  He’d tell us a story of Archie (a.k.a. Reilly) killing Veronica (a.k.a. Felix) by stabbing her in the eye with an icepick and tricking Jughead (a.k.a. Freakout) into giving up 4 years of sobriety just so that Archie has a good alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the murder.  Even all the supporting characters in this Criminal story are from Archie:

  • Liz, the sweet girl-next-door, is clearly “Betty”
  • Phil, Felix’s father and Reilly’s father-in-law, is clearly Mr. Lodge (Veronica’s dad who always hated Archie)
  • Teddy, the childhood rival with whom Felix was having an affair and whom Reilly has neatly framed for the murder, is obviously Reggie

It all just lines up perfectly and I’d probably read more Archie comics if they came with these sorts of storylines.  Can you imagine the scandal: Archie kills Veronica and Reggie for the murder.  Ha!

Of course, an Archie gimmick isn’t going to be enough for these creators.  So, we also have customary Brubaker/Phillips noir-ish atmosphere as Reilly tries to keep up the act of a grieving husband who is getting away with murder.  The next phase of the story also starts to come into play as we learn some interesting new information about Teddy and see that at least one of the characters is still pretty suspicious of Reilly.  I do wonder how Brubaker plans to introduce these new elements and wrap this series next issue, but that’s where you just have to trust a dude with three Eisner awards.

Oh, and there’s even a neat Easter Egg in here for long-time Criminal readers that helps to tie this series with the other story arcs and place it in time.  It isn’t anything that will be bothersome if you haven’t read the rest of Criminal though.

Sean Phillips is again on his game.  I just love his customary style for this series with all the darks and the properly shaded characters that allow the colorist to focus on color choice rather than putting highlights on someone’s forehead.  Another thing I love about Phillips is all the little panels.  Most of these pages have 7-8 panels and this allows Criminal to be chock-full of story.  It also has the effect that on the occasion where Phillips puts in a panel that covers 1/3 of the page, it has the emotional effect of a full-page splash (without wasting a full-page).  I’m not sure if Phillips has ever done a full-page in Criminal?  The work he puts into Criminal is consistently some of my favorite stuff in comics today.

And interesting tidbit is that this issue was colored by Dave Stewart and not regular colorist Val Staples.  It’s a supreme compliment those two men to say that this is a neutral change as Stewart just runs with the color scheme that Staples has used for the first few issues.

What’s Not Quite As Good: I don’t think I love the Archie-style 50’s flashback art as much anymore.  It was really cool in the first issue and it was this art that was key to my realizing that this entire story is an homage to Archie, but now I’d like to just have classic Criminal art.  It isn’t that I dislike the Archie-art because it is clear that Phillips could draw Archie comics tomorrow, but I just think this art has served its purpose.

Even though I said I have faith in Brubaker above, he has gotten out a lot of new toys to play with at the end of this issue.  In addition to the “someone may be on to Reilly” story and the question of what else Teddy has done in the past….Brubaker also introduces another childhood friend of the gang along with her record producer.  Again, I DO trust Brubaker, but I just wonder how all that stuff will tie together with only one issue to go and it made the issue feel a little jumbled as these elements came out just as we were moving past the opening storylines.

Conclusion: Another very strong issue of one of the best series on the stands.

Grade: B+

– Dean Stell

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