Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Savage Sword of Criminal #1 One-Shot
Brubaker & Phillips
Years ago Brubaker and Phillips published a series of stories set in a shared universe that dealt with the criminal underworld. The comics all flew under the “Criminal” title and were published over at Icon (Marvel). Criminal returns for a one-shot that is simply one of the best comics I’ve read. You need no prior knowledge of the previous works nor do you need to do any homework before reading this. All you will get for $5 is entertainment across forty pages at the highest level.
This comic is a comic within a comic book. It mixes the story of a man reading a comic while going about his seedy life. Brubaker uses one of the characters from the previous incarnations of this series, Teeg Lawless, and puts him in prison. While in prison, Lawless falls into a comic book not unlike the Savage Sword of Conan from back in the 70s and 80s. The parallels between the two characters are immediate.
Teeg is in county lockup after a successful heist ends with him arrested on an outstanding traffic court bench warrant. This all catches up with him after a bar fight during his celebration of the heist. This creates a problem with his score, his family, his underworld boss and a bunch of others. Lawless finds little help during the lockup as he struggles to survive his short stay in the joint.
The story within the story just echoes Conan. The comic has blood, guts, sex, nudity and sprawling, but witty writing that makes you feel like you are reading a second complete story. The comic is crafted to perfection as the scenes switch during the appropriate moments of danger that Lawless finds while in the slammer. The book is fantastic.
Phillips completely outdoes himself on artwork. Sure, the Lawless scenes are all too familiar for those that have read Criminal before. There isn’t much new here. However, the way he switches styles for the Savage part of the book is breathtaking. Whatever your vision is when you think of Conan in comic books Phillips fills that void with his incredibly detailed barbarian. The visuals help to make this the complete reading experience.
The comic book is also sold as a magazine size for an extra buck and the price is worth it. In the back are letters to the Savage magazine from some of the top creators in the business and if you have ever read a letters page from the 1970s then you will be laughing at each and every one of them. This extra bonus is only in the magazine style.
Criminal is a solid idea. The success of the book lies in the character work and the grittiness of the world. It’s an unforgiving world with murder, deception and mistrust. If any of those things interest you then I would pick this up. If you enjoyed a good Conan magazine back in the day then you will love this comic book as well. It’s amazing just how similar Conan-like Lawless actually is in this story. Fantastic comic book. One of the very best you will find.
5 out of 5 Geek Goggles