Criminal: Bad Night Part 2 of 4

The second issue of the new Criminal mini-series picks up with cartoonist and erstwhile counterfeiter Jacob held hostage in his own basement by Iris and her "psycho ex-boyfriend" Danny, charged with duplicating an official FBI identification card--substituting Danny's photograph for that of the legitimate FBI agent. As he labors over his task we are subject to his scattered ruminations running somewhere between fear of taking another beating at Danny's hands and obsession over a repeat of his sexual tryst with Iris.

The book struggles with something of a dichotomy between its overly textbook embrace of the mid-twentieth century pulp strain of the crime genre with some post-modern touches that are almost enough to keep the reader interested. Iris is a little too much the prototypical femme-fatale, with her art school pretensions and seedy exotic dancing past. The action and Jacob's moral barometer are commented upon by his cartoon detective creation Frank Kafka, and this adds little to the story aside from the period illustration and dialogue details.

Perhaps the most interesting moment in the book comes when Jacob explains that the portion of his contract that stipulates that his strip can never be cancelled is actually the greatest impediment to its continued successful creation. It also feels as though Brubaker has done something of an homage to David Simon by having Jacob write the cop who mercilessly interrogated him after the death of his wife into one of his strips.

Brubaker is clearly a very skilled hand with the mechanics of crafting a pulp crime story with its brisk narrative and punchy dialogue. Sean Phillips illustrations are perfectly serviceable as well--making the book at the very least a satisfying diversion.

The issue's conclusion in which Iris and Jacob conspire to kill Danny after he procures the loot for which the counterfeit ID was created feels too much as though it was pulled straight out of a Hollywood neo-noir screenplay (Don Siegel's The Killers comes immediately to mind). The prospect of spending two more issues watching as Jacob and Iris deal with Danny's corpse and the inevitable blowback from stealing a bundle of cash intended for an FBI agent seems ultimately tedious.

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