Review – Criminal #3 (Image Comics)

Criminal #3 (Image Comics) cover (detail)by Sean Phillips
Criminal #3
  • Writing - 8.5/10
  • Art - 7/10
  • Overall - 7.8/10
User Review
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Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Jacob Phillips
Maturity Rating: M
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: March 20th, 2019

Hal and Jacob continue to hunt for the “stolen” artwork, and Jacob becomes reacquainted with a familiar face from his past. Get ready to kill your heroes in Criminal #3.  

  It’s All in the Past in Criminal #3

This month readers are finally getting some semblance of continuity as “Bad Weekend” concludes in Criminal #3. Hal is becoming more and more desperate in his attempt to track down his “stolen” art, while Jacob is just trying to make sure Hal shows up to the award ceremony on time—and sober. It’s a tale of retrospection and regret. Ed Brubaker incorporates the ugly side of comic book history, exemplified through the proverbial walking paradox that is Hal Crane. 


Criminal #3 (Image Comics) cover by Sean Phillips
Criminal #3 (Image Comics) cover by Sean Phillips

Before going any further, I want to take a moment to talk about Wally Wood. Wally was an American comic book artist who rose to prominence in the 1950s and ’60s. On the short-list for “greatest artist of all time,” he’s second perhaps only to Jack Kirby. He famously wrote, “never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and pin-up.”  He was revered in the comic book world, a titan of the industry. Oh yeah, and he was a founding cartoonist at Mad Magazine in 1952. But when asked by a biographer, late in his life, what he would do given the chance to go back and do it all over again? His response was “I’d probably cut off my hands.” He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on November 2nd, 1981; he was 54 years old. 

Hal is Wally. Or at least, a part of him. Like Wally, what he loved to do became so entangled and entrenched with what he had to do that he lost all joy and love for his craft altogether. The reason why Hal avoids going to accept his achievement award is that he knows that the person those people are looking to commemorate is long since dead. All that remains is a bitter spiteful shadow of the man who once was, and being confronted with that realization pushes him further into his self-destruction.  


When I look at Sean Phillips‘ art, I can’t help but think of the film Waking Life. It gives off that same strange visual effect of appearing in motion while being perfectly at rest, amplified even more as you become further enveloped in the story. It’s subtle but it’s there. In fact, that’s where Phillips’ artistic strengths seem to lie in Criminal #3—in the subtleties. 

It’s in the body language. The way Hal arches his eyebrows as he lights a cigarette, or how seamlessly the exasperation mixes with adulation on Jacob’s face when he looks at his former mentor; completely unpresumptuous yet captivating. Further compounded by the colors of Jacob Phillips.

The way that he touches Hal’s eyes with that enigmatic shade of blue is just one of many examples scattered throughout the pages of Criminal #3 that make it a truly memorable collaborative artistic experience. His noir-infused palette plays just as crucial a role in telling this story as does any other. 


I was hesitant about doing this review. Having never read any of Criminal‘s seminal installment, I knew that there were going to be things I didn’t understand, characters I wouldn’t recognize or even know. Ed Brubaker does a great job of making this transition an easy one for new readers; it quickly extinguishes any feelings of intimidation. This was a “slow-burn” of a read, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. 

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