by Mark Millar, J.G. Jones (Top Cow, 2007)

Wesley Gibson is a bland individual. He works in a cubicle, takes abuse from his boss, simply ignores a running affair between his live-in girlfriend and his supposed best friend, and he orders the same sandwich at the same eatery every day of the week. He just takes what life throws at him, because anything else would be trying too hard.

But then a woman comes into his life and reveals that Wesley's father was the Killer, a clandestine supervillain in a world that doesn't even know supervillains exist. For years, she explains, battles raged between superheroes and their foes, but finally the bad guys wised up, joined forces into one titanic army of power and wiped the heroes off the face of the Earth. Those who survived had their powers dampened and their memories altered, and using a combination of reality-bending science and magic, the villains made the world forget any of them ever existed.

Now, they run things from the background as the Fraternity, which has branches on each continent; members of the Fraternity can kill, steal or do pretty much anything with complete impunity. And, now that the Killer has been killed, it's time for Wesley to assume the family business.

And oh, he takes to it with gusto! As the new Killer, Wesley is a one-man slaughterhouse, avenging even the smallest of past slights against him, and sometimes just picking victims at random. But then Rictus, a villain who runs the Australian Fraternity and who may (or may not) have been responsible for the original Killer's death, decides it's time for villains to walk in the sun again and spread fear among the public.

Now, this is a book about villains, so expect them to do bad, nasty, horrible things. Readers may be shocked at times at the actions -- some of which occur off-page -- these characters take. Then again, the degree of profanity and nudity should ensure this book is being read only by adults. So, now that all the kids have left the room, let's be frank and admit up front that, if you're looking for a brightly garbed hero to swoop in and "fix" things, you've got the wrong book.

But for readers who enjoy a dark story set in a dark world, Wanted fits the bill. Portions of Wanted are utterly depraved and twisted. Some bits are light, even funny. Heck, you're going to find some of these villains quite charming, really -- but that doesn't mean they don't do terrible things and/or have bad things happen to them. And Wesley -- well, while there's some pleasure in watching him shrug off his old ennui, it has to be said he becomes something of a jerk. We might empathize with him a bit there at the beginning, but we don't ever like the man.

Mark Millar, a talented writer, has crafted a stunningly different type of book with this one, and J.G. Jones matches his plotting with clean, crisp art. It's largely a successful enterprise, although there are missteps along the way. I mean, Mark, c'mon, the concept of a "shit monster" hasn't been funny since Dogma.

Ultimately, though, the question boiled down to -- should I keep this book on my shelf? Will I read it again?

Yes, Mark, I probably will.

review by
Tom Knapp

21 June 2008

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