Most comic books published in the United States have followed the exploits of superheroes, so Criminal definitely sticks out in a crowd. This series follows in the tradition of two by-gone guilty pleasures, pulp detective stories and the crime comics of the 1940s and 1950s. It revolves around the machinations of criminals and crooked cops who pull a job on an armored car full of valuable evidence. The protagonist of the story is Leo Patterson, the coward who gives the title to this collection. He is a master thief, raised to be one from boyhood, and also a master of self-preservation. He does not go into a job without careful planning, nor with a gun, and he always knows his escape routes. Needless to say, the job brings complications, and the plot follows the twists, turns, and doublecrosses that come in the aftermath.
Criminal won the 2007 Eisner Award for Best New Series, and the series writer, Ed Brubaker, is a multiple Eisner Award winner for his pulp-inspired tales. He is renowned for reviving noir in superhero comics, especially the most recent version of Catwoman and Gotham Central at DC Comics. A sought after, hot talent, Brubaker has spent the last few years working exclusively for Marvel Comics where he has written Daredevil, Captain America, Iron Fist, and the X-Men. Sean Phillips is himself a hit artist who is probably most famous for his work on Marvel Zombies, a gruesome mirror of the Marvel Universe where zombie versions of superheroes rule the world. Brubaker and Phillips have a history of collaboration, having also produced the critically acclaimed Sleeper series, as well as another noirish comic, Incognito.
Coward has received a great number of positive reviews online. Here are a few from various sources, including one from Alasdair Stuart, one from Christopher Mills, one from Leroy Doureseaux, and a final one from the Literary Feline, Wendy R.