8.12.09

Wanted

Haven't seen the film, but reports I've heard have generally dismissed it as stupid CGI chewing gum for adolescent eye-balls. The comic is written by Mark Millar and drawn by J.G. Jones -- superstars in the field -- so I was hoping it would be a little more interesting.

Jones is an incredible artist, let's get that out of the way. The Mark Miller angle is more problematic. For someone with such a massive profile, there are some very basic deficiencies in his writing. One is a tendency to overwrite. Random example:

'The final battle took place in 1986. It lasted almost three months and we lost a great many friends during that encounter, but we beat them in the end.'

The 'during that encounter' is completely unnecessary for the sentence to work, and it makes it feel ungainly and unbalanced. When you hear the voice saying the line in your mind, it sounds wrong. It's not the way an actual person would talk.

Second, there's Millar's stab at witty comedy:

'It looks more like my chance to get fucked up the ass and found in a trash can with my throat slit, Professor.'

The love for Ellis/Ennis is evident, but again Millar's sentence is unwieldy. It doesn't zing. I like swearing as much as anyone, but it does not a funny line make. Ellis and Ennis do it right because they pay attention to the sound of the language, and they're inventive with it. It looks like Millar just throws stuff that sounds cool together, and hopes that it will stick. More effort please.

To be fair, the rate of clumsy lines goes down as the comic progresses. And our first-person narrator does rise to the occasion at the show-stopping final battle in the fifth issue. Still, you would expect something better from a writer of such stature.

Enough nit-picking. Let's look at the big picture. Does Millar have anything to say? Perhaps because of the lackluster dialogue, I've found his characters difficult to engage with in the past. His Fantastic Four and Ultimates were very flat, though the comics were saved by some out-there ideas and Brian Hitch's widescreen artwork. Civil War, being a crossover, had little time for characters, and the central idealism vs. pragmatism concept wasn't used for much more than to set-up massive team deathmatches. That said, a friend of mine who went through the entire Civil War saga says that the idea had legs in the individual series, so we shouldn't be too harsh.

But Wanted is something different. Millar puts himself out there. He wants to say something. To confront you. The final two pages are worth the six-issue slog through stupid villains and uninvolving plot twists. It should also be said that the portrait of Wesley Grayson at the beginning is done with sympathy and feeling, and I was won over. Millar can do characters, it seems. Or at least, one character -- who may resemble himself more than anything.

So. Recap. A good beginning and a good ending, with the bad writing in the middle partly redeemed by kick-ass art. Not bad. But not really good enough either.

(Admin note: Hey! What happened?? The design of the Hot-Doll pages has been rejigged, with the aim of make them a little easier to read. Hope that helps!)

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