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Why we’re excited about Amazon Prime’s Criminal series

Comic book meets noir

The cover of Criminal Deluxe Edition Vol. 3.
Sean Phillips/Image Comics

Earlier this month, via The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon Prime Video officially ordered a Criminal TV series based on the comic book series by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips. In 2006, their creator-owned comic revitalized the long-dormant crime genre in the medium. Criminal‘s storylines were free of superheroes, zombies, and other comic book conventions. Instead, Brubaker and Phillips were able to revisit pulp storytelling from a modern perspective.

Amazon Prime already has a strong track record of comic adaptations with Invincible and The Boys, but Criminal is something different altogether. This show has the potential to be an even more mainstream hit. And that’s why we’re sharing our reasons why we’re excited about Amazon Prime’s Criminal series.

Two panels from Criminal: Cruel Summer.
Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips/Image Comics

Criminal’s creators are actively involved with the show

Outside of comics, Brubaker has already established himself as a TV writer on HBO’s Westworld and on Prime Video’s upcoming mature superhero animated series, Batman: Caped Crusader. That experience is why Brubaker will get to be the co-showrunner of Criminal alongside a fellow crime fiction veteran, Jordan Harper. In the world of television, the showrunners guide the series, and they tend to write as many episodes as they want to.

Phillips is also on board the show as an executive producer alongside Brubaker and Harper in association with Legendary Television and Amazon MGM Studios. It took 11 months for Amazon Prime to finally go forward with the series, and the official order for the show is the culmination of nearly two decades of work by Brubaker and Phillips.

The cover of Criminal: Coward.
Sean Phillips/Image Comics

Criminal’s stories are an intricately connected anthology

The original Criminal storyline was called Coward, and it focused on Leo Patterson (pictured above, top right), a pickpocket who was recruited for an armored car robbery. Following the conclusion of that story, Leo only made a cameo appearance in the second storyline, Lawless, because he had been the best friend of Ricky Lawless, the man whose murder was at the heart of that tale. Later, Criminal storylines featured Ricky and Leo as teenagers, with an increased focus on Ricky’s father, Teeg Lawless. Ricky’s older brother, Tracy Lawless, took the lead in Lawless and The Sinners.

Even when Criminal told one-off stories about cartoonist Jacob Kurtz, as well as supporting characters Sebastian Hyde and Jake ‘Gnarly’ Brown, the connections between each storyline held this series together as a shared universe. That, in turn, makes each chapter feel like a part of the larger whole.

A series of panels from Criminal: Cruel Summer.
Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips/Image Comics

The Criminal series can embrace the comic’s noir overtones

There simply aren’t that many TV shows or movies that recapture the vibe of pulp crime novels or film noir thrillers in the way that the Criminal comic was able to do. If the Criminal series can faithfully adapt the comic stories and utilize that tone, it could have a far greater reach than either The Boys or Invincible.

Superheroes may be more mainstream than crime comics, but the reverse is true in cinema and television. That gives Criminal a greater chance to become a breakout hit for Amazon Prime Video. And that also means that Brubaker and Phillips could once again return to create new Criminal comics now that the show is on its way. That alone makes it worthwhile.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell is a freelance writer for The Manual, Digital Trends, Fandom, Yahoo Entertainment, and more!
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