Adulthood Loses Innocence

In Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal: The Last of the Innocent, Riley Richards kills his wife in search of a new life with the woman he loved from his childhood.  His constant obsession with this well devised plan sends him into a whirlwind of operations to cover up his tracks.  To others around him, he keeps up a façade while secretly he works to keep his identity in tact.  Richards goes through all this hard work in attempt to bring back the innocent days of his childhood, however in reality he is just diverging himself from this path more and more.  The innocence of his past is corrupted entirely through the actions of his present.  On the surface, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent is about a man whose plan to get away with murder results in a never-ending cycle of covering up his tracks; but on a deeper level the book is about the loss of childhood innocence in the adult world.

A representation of the loss of innocence is in the descriptions of the city.  Riley states, “Boy, I sure do like gambling and cheap sex in bathroom stalls”, the most positive thing he mentions throughout the entirety of the story.   “The city makes people into jerks”; it is dirty and vulgar.[1]  The perception of this setting is greatly contrasts with the purity of Brookview, Riley’s hometown.  This emphasizes the difference between childhood and adulthood.  The impact of the environment around Riley influences him to become the monster he is by the end of the book.

While Felix entices him to commit this crime, Richards pushes himself past a point of no return; once his murder begins, he can’t seem to stop.  He has such a strong mindset to get back to the way things were that he only sees killing anyone in his way as a viable option.  His ironic way of thinking destroys any hopes of innocence left in his life and ultimately the world around him.  Brubaker and Phillips portray society in a dark light and don’t shy away from this as Riley’s victims pile up.

His perception of Lizzie, the girl next door from his childhood, is a representation of the way things used to be.  He focuses solely on being with her in order to regain the wholesome childhood he once had.  However, Riley’s focus is too demented; his mindset is in the innocence of the past, which gives him an altered perception of the present.  Things used to seem so simple, yet now they are twisted into a story that Riley cannot undo.  By the end, his sole purpose is to keep his identity hidden in order to start over with the woman he loves.  While he is so concerned with preserving what he once had, Riley ends up destroying it entirely.

The childhood portrayed in this novel seems so lighthearted and fun, and that is the ideal setting that Riley wants to return to.  Yet, his strong focus on the killing of his wife and bystanders eliminates any innocence that was once in his life.


[1] Brothers, David. “‘Criminal: The Last of the Innocent’ Mixes Murder With Nostalgia in a Brubaker Master Class.” Comics Alliance. N.p., 1 Jun 2011. Web. 2 Feb. 2012. <http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/06/01/criminal-last-of-the-innocent/&gt;.

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