Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wanted Trade Paperback Review

Image Comics - Top Cow
Softcover Trade Paperback
$19.99 (2005)
$29.99 (2005) Hardcover
ISBN 9781582404974

Contributors: Mark Millar, J.G. Jones, Paul Mounts, and Dennis Heisler

Reprints: Wanted #1-6 (of 6); Wanted Dossier

Synopsis: Wesley Gibson is the biggest human doormat in the world.  His girlfriend is screwing his best friend - and he knows about it, he works a pathetic job in a cubicle while his boss treats him like shit, and basically everyone thinks he's an industrial-grade douche.  The poor guy grew up without a dad and his mom turned him into a big sissy.  The poor guy hates his life, but is too powerless to do anything about it.

Yeah, that's pretty #$%^'d up
He's about to discover his father was the baddest super-assassin to walk the earth.  Now he's heir to The Killer's fortune and a seat in The Fraternity, a secret society of supervillains who killed all the superheroes and control the world from the shadows.  They live with impunity, kill without consequence, and even plunder neighboring dimensions for treasure (and fun).  The problem - Wesley's a sniveling wimp.  How can he possibly live up to his father's image?

The Fox was The Killer's apprentice and puts Wesley through a test - shoot the wings off six flies or take a bullet in the head.  Fortunately for Wesley his father's blood pumps through his veins and he has a natural ability to kill things which he never even suspected.  Now Wesley gets put through the most grueling training imaginable to become the most deadly assassin in the world - to become his father's son.

Now Wesley has the power to take back his life for the first time.  He revels in his newfound status and abilities, but is swimming with the sharks of The Fraternity - the deadliest supervillains who rule the world.  Heading The Fraternity are the Council of Five - The Professor (who Wesley works for), Mr. Rictus (who hated Wesley's father and is the suspected killer of The Killer), Adam One (the oldest living being on the planet), The Emperor (Chinese despot), and The Future (neo-Nazi fascist superman).

The Professor, Emperor, and Adam One want to keep the status quo of ruling from the shadows, but Rictus and The Future want to burst out into the open and commit heinous acts of evil for their own sake.  Wesley is trapped in the middle of the power play and must fend for himself without anyone he can really trust.  Will his life of being pushed face-first into toilets cause him to side with Rictus and commit true evil?  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely after all.  Rictus supposedly had The Killer assassinated - can Wesley gain revenge and is Rictus the true mastermind?  It's an action-packed thrill ride as Wesley is pushed to his mental and physical limits in a sea of betrayal.
These are some very dangerous people
Pros: Great covers and interior art by Jones, awesome concept and writing by Millar, mature readers tag means lots of swearing/violence/nudity, dossier has pinups of characters by a bunch of top artists (Frank Quitely, Jae Lee, Joe Quesada), nominated for an Eisner in 2005 - best limited series, source material for a blockbuster Hollywood movie

Cons: Juvenile power trip story, scripting is awkward in parts, typical alternate reality tale with well-known superhero knockoffs - Bizarro/The Riddler/The Fixer/Clayface/etc, desensitizes readers to violence, different than the movie plot (although it bears some striking resemblances)

Mike Tells It Straight: I recently went on vacation for a family reunion (my wife's 90-year-old grandmother went skydiving and it made the news - yes, she's awesome), had some time to kill on the airplane trip, and brought Wanted along.  I've already seen the movie starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, and Morgan Freeman.  Thought it was great - action packed with cool setup and relatively decent plot resolution (hey, I'm an easy-going movie-goer and can suspend disbelief for a lot of shenanigans).

You may have heard of this movie
The actual comic book mini-series is very different from the movie.  First, it has supervillains wearing costumes and a bunch of powers (expensive to pull off in a major motion picture), and then it has the villains ruling the world from the shadows.  Cool concept which I haven't seen in comics before - score one for Millar.  I dug the everyman lameness of Wesley Gibson - he's a complete loser office drone with a pathetic life.  He inherits a bunch of money, cool superpowers, and a purpose in life (although it's to be totally evil).

Millar's concept works and he puts together a compelling piece of work with excellent art by Jones.  It's not a genre-defying miracle, but merely a compelling spin on That-Which-Came-Before - superhero stories of the last 50+ years where the good guys always win and the bad guys are inept morons.  Millar takes the grim-and-gritty of the mid-Eighties and dials it up to 11 with the villains on top.

I loved The Ultimates by Millar and Bryan Hitch - a realistic and fresh take on heroes with decades of adventures (baggage) relinquished from them.  Wanted is not as good as his work there or on Ultimate X-Men, but it's above-average and worth a look.  Fun and juvenile with a wink to the established universes of both DC and Marvel - doesn't elevate the medium of comic books, but fills out an unused corner which needed some furniture.

TO BUY and Recommendations: