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‘Cruel Summer’ HC (review)

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips with Jacob Phillips
Published by Image Comics


Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips collaborations are consistently impressive.

They work to explore genres. They mix and match genres in a playful matter. With the recent Pulp (Western and 30’s crime fiction) and Kill or Be Killed (Horror and Vigilante Thriller) they jump in and are fearless. They always come back to their series, Criminal, as their main conduit of crime fiction. The Cruel Summer collection of Criminal issues (#1 and #5-12 to be exact) matches up to their best work.

The Lawless family is a constant throughout Criminal.

Cruel Summer focuses primarily on Teeg Lawless and his relationship with his son, Ricky. To get there, we take detours to side characters. The detours serve to add contours to this tale.

We meet Jane, who lured several characters with her looks and wiles, including Teeg Lawless. Dan Farraday, a battle scarred private detective chasing after Jane. Ricky’s friend, Leo, who serves as a surprising factor to the tragic climax.

Typically, stories set in the 80’s era highlight the bright neon of the time or slick backed hair Wall Street or Madonna type characters. But each chapter of Criminal focuses on a different character. Each one that we meet gets a focus. Yes they are “criminals,” but you see how this life wears and how the decisions made reverberate for years and generations. This volume of Criminal tells a tale of small time hustlers chasing the next score during the Reagan era of greed.

Brubaker, Phillips, and colorist Jacob Phillips transport us to a time in which “Nuclear bombs will rain down any day now, so get yours while you can.” is the driving moral. Brubaker’s dialogue and narration let’s us know what is driving these characters. Sean Phillips art, which really focuses on how these characters express themselves, really invites the reader. Jacob Phillips coloring sets the mood for a grimy tale.

Cruel Summer is a great read for fans of crime fiction. If you have not read previous chapters of Criminal, Cruel Summer stands on its own.

Brubaker and Phillips succeed once again.


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