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"He had to admit, the kid had surprised him. Impressed him, even.
"Maybe those three months in juvie had done his son some good after all, Teeg thought..."
Teeg Lawless: father-figure extraordinaire!
He's straight out of county jail (again) after son Ricky's sprung for the bail with a stolen diamond necklace.
Apples / trees, trees / apples: learned behaviour, innit?
Thing is, the necklace was stolen before Ricky nicked it, and the original thief he pilfered it from is not someone to be messed with. Certainly not someone you kick the crap out of, so there will be repercussions both for Teeg and more immediately for teenage Ricky: broken bones of his own, courtesy of his clearly doting daddy.
Loyalty and betrayal is a theme that runs like a sorry, impure seam right through this filthy underworld rock face. Teeg isn't so oblivious that he can't catch himself in the act of romantic betrayal and feel a pang of guilt, but self-awareness doesn't necessarily determine self-guidance, and he's in for a shock when he discovers that he himself has been betrayed for years. Honour amongst thieves...? Do me one!
From the team who recently brought you the brilliant broken romance that is MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES with Page 45's exclusive bookplate signed by Brubaker, Phillips & Phillips (itself a CRIMINAL graphic novel, though it was never announced as such so as not to spoil a certain surprise inside) comes a brand-new monthly series, some of whose stories will be completely self-contained, like this one. That last piece of good knowledge will make this first issue's final page almost as arresting as KILL OR BE KILLED's.
The first five pages which I have for you here attest to Brubaker's ability to flip with agility between two individuals' perspectives with mutually mounting tension, and the old man's broken short-term memory is masterfully, painfully evoked to render him in our eyes all the more vulnerable to Ricky's guile. This could also be construed an act of betrayal - on the elderly and infirm - regardless of the mistaken identity.
Phillips Sr. pulls a neat stroke of his own in his depiction of Sharon, the ex-wife of Teeg Lawless's ex-partner-in-crime: she's glamorous enough on the first page, but on closer inspection and intoxication her face droops and her hooded eyes sag into the bags beneath them. She perks up again shortly, though...
The colouring throughout by Phillips Jr. is particularly striking, being expressionistic, fiery, bruised, bloody, battered, dirty and suitably stained. On the pages I describe immediately above, as the bourbon's consumed, it's as if someone's spilled claret across them.
There are crimes within crimes as you'd expect for a title with this depth and complexity, but for much lengthier analysis of Brubaker and Phillips' work, please see the series referred to above, plus their FATALE and THE FADE OUT.