Do you ever feel like the world conspires against you, that there are sinister powers that sometime twitch your little puppet strings to make you adhere to their dance macabre?
Well, do you?
Because I don’t. Believe, that is, that there is something like faith that goes into this phenomenon. It’s called marketing, people, and a lot of people have been getting very good at it lately. In fact, they’ve gotten so good that I decided to pick up “Wanted”, a graphic novel by famous comic scribe Mark Millar, solely because I had just watched an entertaining trailer for the upcoming movie (with a very hawt looking Angelina Jolie) and happened upon a cool piece about the film (TBR 27th of June) in my latest copy of SFX magazine.
So yeah, I admit that I danced to the preferred tune of capitalistic bosses everywhere when I bought “Wanted”, but you know what? I don’t really give a rat’s ass, ’cause this was a very enjoyable read, even if it didn’t contain any naked pictures of Angelina Jolie (damnit! Foiled again!).
“I am John Wayne in True Grit. I am Charles Bronson in Death Wish. I am Clint Eastwood in all five Dirty Harry flicks and all the best spaghetti westerns.
I am Jean-Claude van Damme. I am Sly Stallone. I am Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon and Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. I am Lee Marvin. I am Sean Connery. I am Arnold Goddamn Schwarzenegger.
… And you, my friend, are fucked.”
— “Wanted”, Assassin’s Edition, written by Mark Millar
“Wanted” is, for good and for worse, deliciously over the top in everything it does. The plot? A normal, average Joe working stiff with a piss-poor excuse for a girlfriend, job and life in general, is one day approached by a woman named Fox, who tells him that his father was one of the world’s greatest super-villains. Wesley Gibson, our protagonist, is the only son and heir of ‘the Killer’ and all his fortune, but his father set one condition that Wesley has to fulfil to gain access to his father’s estate: He has to train and work for the Professor as his personal bodyguard/assassin. Naturally, not everything is as it first seems, and Millar actually manages to tell a quite entertaining tale with a nice twist towards the end.
The best thing about this six-issue long graphic novel though, isn’t the snappy dialogue, nor the aforementioned plot or the way Millar actually has a squalid pass at tackling themes a bit over this book’s head. He tries to make it as if “Wanted” is a shout-out to its audience that there’s more to life than reading comics, watching movies, yada-yada-ya, but really, come on! Not only does the format pretty much solidify that anyone who reads it will take it as the escapist piece it is (no shame in that), but the plot elements are so far removed from reality that I think the average reader would end up stuck even further down in the swamp of apathy. However, I do feel like “Wanted” deserves a clap on the shoulder for the attempt, even if it’s attempt was half-hearted.
Oops. Seems like I got carried away for a while there. I was trying to tell you the best thing about this book, which is the way it tackles its superhero mythos. In “MillarWorld”, the superheroes aren’t commonplace sights for the average New Yorker, mostly because they’re all dead. Yeah, that’s right. Ever wonder why you never see these myseterious crime fighters about any more? It’s because the super villains got tired of getting pummeled by Superman and his compatriots and killed ‘em all back in the seventies. The reason you don’t know this now, is because the super villains, being the crafty bastards that they are, rewrote history in some unexplained way and made you forget all about it.
Hee! That’s a fun premise for a world, don’t you think? No heroes, only villains and humans and lots of shades of grey. Delicious. Add that JG Jones has made some very cool looking art for this book, and you should be just about convinced right then and there.
The characters are a little one-dimensional in the way they are portrayed, if not the way they are illustrated… Some of this can of course be excused, because, well… you just don’t expect characters like “Shithead” and “Fuckwit” to be masterpieces of ingenuity. Wesley’s transformation from sad-sack to full-on bad-ass isn’t especially convincing, but it does actually flow quite nicely into the whole over-the-top feel of the book, which I’ve mentioned before. I’m glad he had a couple of scenes where he started getting a little worried that, you know, killing everyone who has slighted him was maybe overdoing it a tad. It might have been too much if Millar hadn’t included it.
So to sum up, I’d say “Wanted” is well worth your money and time. It’s not “Watchmen” good, nor is it “Transmetropolitan” good, but it’s definitely enjoyable in its own guilty-pleasure kind of way. And, from what I can gather, the movie is actually true to most of the book, but have decided to not do the whole “super villain plot”, which was easily the one that I enjoyed the most…
But it does star Angelina Jolie, so who cares.