Remember back in Criminal #5 when a Detective Dan Farraday tracked down Jane? Neither do I, but Farraday’s back, baby, and paunchier and drunker than ever.
The first half of this begins with Farraday stumbling around in a drunken stupor, asking around for Jane. While effective in communicating how pathetic he is, Brubaker undermines any danger to him. There’s a clear build-up here as Farraday tracks down leads to find our sordid protagonist — but I don’t feel much tension because, well, he’s a loser. Teeg, Ricky, or Jane could kick his ass. #5 ended with him loading a shotgun and growling: “They won’t be hard to find.” Cue The Who. But now he’s a lame, lovesick puppy that doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat.
While we’re on Farraday, let’s talk about his cliché, broadcasting voice-over. Usually Brubaker manages to insert VO that gives us lots of insight we wouldn’t normally get from just visuals or dialogue alone. Unfortunately, the narration here is often unnecessary.
Even though Farraday is searching high and low, the trail is going cold. So what does the VO say? “A small root of despair grew inside him.” Thank you for telling us that. But what happens when he gets a lead? “And just like that…his despair turned into hope.” And then later, “That hope just kept growing inside him…until it felt like a magnet, pulling him to her.” WE GET IT. Please let Phillips’ art do the talking.
I’ve been bemoaning this subplot, but the sadness surrounding Farraday fits into themes Criminal has been incorporating all along. This guy refers to Teeg as a monster and is sure that once Jane sees him, they’ll suddenly be together and that’ll be “justice.” It’s indicative of cyclical abuse and desire that’s shaken and stirred by fate.
However, then Ricky gets the spotlight. And while Brubaker up ‘til now has done a decent job of conveying Ricky’s angst in a believable way…here things tip over into cliché. Apparently Teeg and Jane have plans that do not include Ricky, so he’s got the boot. Yet, a fight breaks out and it goes down exactly how we’ve seen family fights play out in every gangster movie ever. The only silver lining is how Ricky reacts, which makes for an exceptionally ominous, game-changing ending.
Sean and Jacob Phillips lean hard on visual references to pulpy ‘70s movies, especially Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader joints. The streets are awash in neon colors that run around and behind the characters like bubbling tides. Framing is exceedingly cinematic, with characters smoking cigarettes in shadowy cars and waiting anxiously in strip clubs that bare themselves with little importance.
Continually hard to pin down, Criminal’s refusal to settle down has benefits in rendering scope. But all too often the plotting and characterization gets ungainly and in #10’s case, leads to cliché beats.