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 double-crosses 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.