The Loss of Innocence from Childhood to Adulthood

Matthew Young

February 2, 12

First Year Seminar / Delwiche


The Loss of Innocence from Childhood to Adulthood

            For anybody that reads comics, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal: Last of the Innocent is a comic with a straight forward plot about a man named Riley Richards whose life is so miserable in the city that he plots an elaborate plan to murder his wife and reunite with his high school sweetheart back in his small hometown. But Brubaker and Phillips’ comic was a lot more than a simple narrative; it is an analysis of what drives a man to such lengths and how Riley literally lost his innocence. On the surface, Criminal: The Last of the Innocent is about a man whose life is so out of hand that he decides to kill his manipulative and cheating wife; but on a deeper level, the book is about transition from childhood to adulthood and the loss of innocence in between.

Most people that read Criminal: Last of The Innocent would also have experienced some sense of déjà vu. To most, the style of drawing depicting Riley’s childhood years would remind the audience of the Archie comic series. The way in which Brubaker and Phillips portrayed Riley’s childhood was in a very simplistic manner that highlighted the essence of childhood, by showing the innocence Riley felt during his younger years. In terms of characters, there is a big gap in the way Riley remembers his friends past physical appearance and personality. Freakout was the kid who got high all the time and ate a lot; Lizzie Gordon was the innocent and prude hippie girl from next door; and Felix was the sexy and manipulative new girl to town. In Riley’s present life, Brubaker and Phillips depict Freakout with a more mature and boney  facial structure as he has gone through drug rehabilitation, while Riley now looks at Lizzie with awe in her beauty as he seems to look at her as the perfect girl. But for Felix, nothing has really changed except now Riley looks at her with contempt and hate because she is the cruel, manipulative woman that stole his innocence from him. However, Brubaker and Phillips portrayed the characters childhood in that simplistic style for a reason. As Scott McCloud says in his comic, people find it a lot easier to relate with comics when the drawings are less detailed but also resembling a face.[1] That way, the readers can relate to what the characters are going through, particularly to the idea of innocence during childhood.

The visible differences in city and town lifestyles were apparent throughout the comic in how they were drawn, what the characters did in both environments, and the landscape of the city and Brookview. As David Brothers of Comic Alliance points out, once Riley was brought into the city, he was introduced to and consumed by numerous temptations such as gambling and drinking while also dealing with his manipulative and cheating wife, Felix.[2] All signs that Riley gives the readers is that he absolutely despises the city scene because of how miserable he is there. During one of Riley’s flashbacks, he remembers a day where he is with Freakout and Felix at Millie’s Malt Shop, where Riley and Freakout are munching on ice cream after getting high.[3] However, the parallel of that incident in the city lifestyle is shown when Freakout gets really messed up and gets in a fight with two grunge kids.[4] Brubaker and Phillips are just trying to throw oil on the fire by highlighting more problems with being in the city. This comparison of cities and towns goes hand in hand with the fact that as Riley progresses into adulthood, he loses his innocence, which makes the comparison very symbolic.

The narration from Riley Richards throughout the comic proves to be very valuable in terms of his enlightenment. As he goes through his childhood memories, he draws upon the ones that he finds most significant. But more importantly, it’s his own narration that helps him realize that the one thing that not only stole his innocence but also ruined his childhood, was the arrival of Felix to Brookview. He sees her as the one reason he ever felt miserable and moved to the city, even as she ran around with Teddy behind his back. But what actually frightens the reader is that Riley actually rationalizes his killing of Felix because to him, she is what drove him to that point.


[1] McCloud, Scott. “Vocabulary of Comics.” Comic strip. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994. 28-33. Print.

[2] Brothers, David. “‘Criminal: The Last of the Innocent’ Mixes Murder With Nostalgia in a Brubaker Master Class.” Comic Alliance. 1 June 2012. Web. 1 Feb. 2012. <;.

[3] Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (2011) Criminal: Last of The Innocent, I: 10 (1).

[4] Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (2011) Criminal: Last of The Innocent, III: 21 (4-8).

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