Skip to content

How to read Criminal, a comic by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips ?

  • Fabien 

Last Updated 11 months ago.As I said in my first message, even if the main point of this website is to provide the best reading order guide I can produce, I also want to write about some great comics that don’t require a lot of guidance.

I’m starting with a modern classic, Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This is for those of you who love crime stories with all the clichés and violence that you can think of, but those are still greats.

What is Criminal?

In short, Criminal is kind of a crime anthology. Each arc follows a different character. They all live in the same universe though, and some are connected, but the stories work independently from one another.

To this day, there are 7 stories, the last ones were published a few months ago after a four years break. I personally hope there will be more.

Where to start reading Criminal comics?

Even if you can take separately each story-arc, the best way to go is to start with the beginning. The main reason is the world building. There’s really a unique feel to that Criminal universe. That said, I mostly recommend reading the first two, Coward and Lawless. After, you do like you want.

The Dead and the Dying and Wrong Time, Wrong Place are kind of prequels in the ’70s. On the other side, The Sinners is a sequel to Lawless – the action takes place one year after.

  1. Coward – The story of Leo, a man who can plan and execute almost any heist, but only if he can be convinced that the plan is safe enough. But sometimes the reward is worth the risk, and when a woman from Leo’s past comes to him with a sure-fire score to nab a few million worth of diamonds from Police Evidence, all his rules and cautions go right out the window. But in the world Leo lives in, as he may soon learn, those rules may be the only thing keeping him alive.
  2. Lawless – A story of brotherly love and hate, as Tracy Lawless finally returns home to find out who murdered his kid brother, and how much their family history has doomed them both.
  3. The Dead and the Dying – A beautiful but damaged woman returns home with nothing but vengeance on her mind, and two best friends, one the son of the city’s crime kingpin, are caught in the crossfire.

Coward, Lawless and The Dead and the Dying are collected together in Criminal: Deluxe Edition vol 1


  1. Bad Night – The story of Jacob, the writer and artist of the ‘Frank Kafka PI’ newspaper strips. The insomniac and former counterfeiter gets drawn into a plan by a man and his girlfriend who want to impersonate an FBI agent.
  2. The Sinners – Tracy Lawless is still a man caught between a history of violence and his own conscience. And now the worst bad guy in the world is tasked with a new job: Solving a series of murders of untouchable crime lords.
  3. The Last of the Innocent – It’s Criminal meets Archie Comics! Owing money to a loan shark and discovering his wealthy wife is cheating on him, Riley decides to murder her and use her money to pay off his debt.

Bad Night, The Sinners and The Last of the Innocent are collected together in Criminal: Deluxe Edition vol 2.

Cover Bad Weekend From Criminal by Ed Brubaker et Sean Phillips

  1. Wrong Time, Wrong Place – Teeg Lawless is trapped behind bars with a price on his head, doing anything he can to survive, while Tracy Lawless celebrates his twelfth birthday riding shotgun on a mission of death.
  2. My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies First original graphic novel set in the world of criminal. Teenage Ellie has always had romantic ideas about drug addicts. The tragic, artistic souls drawn to needles and pills have been an obsession since the death of her junkie mother ten years ago. But when Ellie lands in an upscale rehab clinic where nothing is what it appears to be, she’ll find another, more dangerous romance… and find out how easily drugs and murder go hand-in-hand.
  3. Bad Weekend – Comics won’t just break your heart. Comics will just kill you. Hal Crane should know, he’s been around since practically the beginning. Stuck at an out-of-town convention, waiting to receive a lifetime achievement award, Hal’s weekend takes us on a dark ride through the secret history of a medium that’s always been haunted by crooks, swindlers, and desperate dreamers.

Wrong Time, Wrong Place, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies and Bad Weekend are collected together in Criminal: Deluxe Edition vol. 3 (with also Criminal (2019) #1 & #4 )

Cover Cruel Summer From Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Reading Order

  1. Cruel Summer – In the summer of ’88, Teeg Lawless comes home to plan the biggest heist of his career. But Teeg’s son Ricky and his friends are starting down the same dark path their fathers are on, and this is about to become the worst summer of their lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.