Criminal (Vol. 6): The Last of the Innocent Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Criminal (Vol. 6): The Last of the Innocent by Ed Brubaker The Last of the Innocent is volume six in the Criminal series by Ed Brubaker, and it tells the sordid tale of Riley Richards, another perfect noir character from this series of comics. What makes this an unusual noir tale is that the story, which takes place in 1982, is blended with flashbacks from the late 1960s that are told as if the characters are from the Archie comics. Even the style of the art changes to an Archie-style imitation, but it’s odd because the innocent Archie comics are replaced with a group of teenagers doing what teenagers from the 1960s often did: Have sex, smoke pot, and generally get into trouble.

The Archie gang is all there. Riley is Archie, and his druggy friend Freakout, or Freak, is Jughead. Betty, literally the girl next door, is Lizzie Gordon, and Veronica is the rich brunette Felicity Doolittle, or Felix. In the world of 1982, Riley is married to Felix, and they have moved to the city. Felix has little love for Riley, and he discovers she is having an affair with their old friend, Teddy. When Riley’s father is dying, he goes home to the small town of Brookview and visits with his friends Lizzie and Freak. Lizzie is still single, and Riley realizes that he still is in love with her. And she is particularly appealing given that Felix is cheating on him and his wealthy father-in-law hates him. Freak is also still in the small town, and though he’s been strung-out in the past, he’s trying to stay sober now. The three of them gather in the malt shop, and it’s just like old times. It’s not long before Riley wants the old times to return for good, but he realizes that to fulfill this dream, he’s probably going to have to commit murder. Remember, this is a noir tale after all.

It’s hard to say much more than that without giving spoilers, but this is classic noir, so you can imagine this comic is going to be a dark tale with unexpected twists that head in a generally downward trajectory. Riley’s return to the small town will do nobody any favors. However, the ending will be a surprise if you are familiar with the other Criminal volumes. Yes, it’s a dark tale, but what else do you expect when you pick up a crime comic by Ed Brubaker? This volume, as most of the volumes in the Criminal series, works well as a standalone story, and it’s as good as any to start your reading of the Brubaker oeuvre. Don’t miss out on The Last of the Innocent if you are a fan of noir.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.