Wanted #1 – Reviews Of Old Comics

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There’s always this fear when I hear that a comic book is getting turned into a television series or a movie. I understand that some liberties need to be taken and there needs to be some diverting from the source material. If every comic book movie were a straight up point-by-point recreation of a comic book story, than we wouldn’t get some of the best comic book movies of the past few years. Unfortunately, there’s also a school of thought that comic books are stupid and for an adaptation of a comic book to be a successful film, it needs to lose most of what it was about. There are examples on both sides of the argument for and against. That brings us to Wanted.

The film diverts significantly from the comic book. The fraternity, instead of being a vast, global network of super-villains, is instead a small group of assassins with a similar ability to curve bullets. Essentially, only a few elements are kept, among them being the dark tone. It can also be criticized for “whitewashing” the character of Fox, who goes from being an African-American jewel thief, looking much like Halle Berry, to a Caucasian assassin played by Angelina Jolie. I am torn on the film, but ultimately come down on the side of treating the film and the comic book as two separate things. I enjoy the film as an action movie, but if the comic were like that, I’d probably despise it. The comic book is something else, and that’s where we’ll begin.

Wanted #1

December 2003
Image Comics

Script: Mark Millar
Art: J. G. Jones
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Robin Spehar, Dennis Heisler, Mark Roslan

Synopsis:

Wesley Gibson’s girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend. Wesley works in a job at a magazine with a domineering boss that he hates, but puts up with her abuse because he’s too scared to say or do anything. He’s insulted by neighborhood punks as he goes home to obsess about disorders he may have. He also dwells about his dad walking out on him and his mother when he was eighteen weeks old.

Elsewhere, The Killer, a highly trained assassin is attacked by snipers as he’s watching two male prostitutes have sex. He chases down the snipers and kills all but one of them. The remaining one reveals that they were decoys, and with that realization, The Killer is murdered. At his funeral, associates comment about the Killer’s murder being kept out of the papers. His lover, the Fox, is taking the Killer’s death pretty hard. The associates speculate that Rictus was behind the murder, holding a grudge for the Killer left his employ years ago. They also talk about the child the Killer had with someone years ago, who now stands to inherit everything in the Killer’s fortune.

Wesley is placing a lunch order while his girlfriend and best friend are carrying on their affair. The Fox approaches him to take him to an appointment with The Professor. The show Wesley that she’s serious about getting him to the appointment, she shoots up the restaurant and takes off with him in her sports car. She reveals that she’s part of the Fraternity, which can get by with anything, and that Wesley is now part of it as well. She takes him to a secret underground headquarters where the members of the Fraternity are allowed to wear the costumes they wore as super-villains, running all organized crime since 1986.

She gets them by the Professor’s bodyguard, F**kwit by saying the opposite of what she means, where she introduces him to Professor Solomon Seltzer. The Professor explains that Wesley’s father was his personal bodyguard. He also lets him know that his father left behind an estate worth fifty million dollars, a secret kept as a member of the Fraternity. The condition is that Wesley takes over as the Killer, since he’ll have the skills in his genetics, and the Professor wants Wesley to prove it by shooting the wings off of six flies in the room. Wesley is hesitant, but with the Fox holding a gun to his head, his instincts kick in and he does just that.  The Professor reveals that this is the solution to all of Wesley’s problems.

Review:

Most of the events in this issue made it into the film. The sole exception is the fraternity of super-villains. It’s a classic use of suspension of disbelief. Imagine a world run by super-villains that have managed to get rid of all of the super-heroes. Wesley gets dropped into that world, and everything goes from there. The world itself pretty much runs the same, but once Wesley gets dragged into it, he sees a different world, very much unlike the one he has known. There’s very little hint of it until the Fox drags Wesley into the underground headquarters of the Professor. It all unfolds nicely and the plot is peeled away leaving hints that the mystery of who killed the Killer will be a point of contention. 

The art by J.G. Jones is fantastic, and makes for a realistic world and that realism doesn’t end when the super-villains show up. they look like they belong in the same world as Wesley, his girlfriend and his domineering boss. He spots his shadows very nicely, and makes the every location unique. His anatomy is on point, and his perspective is practically flawless. I even like the coloring work Paul Mounts does over the artwork, and I’m not generally a fan of his coloring work. Mounts keeps his use of gradients under tight control, and while they’re present, they don’t distract from the overall color themes he works into the scenes.

If there’s a flaw here, it’s how overly violent the story is and how debaucherous the “villains” are. It’s a little hard to root for a protagonist that is the antithesis for everything that should be likable in a lead character, and in this hero’s journey, everyone is a horrible specimen of humanity. It’s still a classic Campbell-like hero’s journey with Wesley’s introduction to a grand adventure with a helper in the Fox and a Mentor in the Professor. This classic structure may be why Wanted is such an engrossing story to read, and if I had read this comic when it first came out, I probably would have eagerly sought out every issue of this series.

 

Notes: As far as I can tell, this issue is not currently available digitally. It has been collected with the rest of the story in both hardcover and paperback. You may even be able to find it at your local comic book shop. It does contain a lot of harsh language and a little bit more violence that more sensitive readers might be comfortable with reading. Nevertheless it is marked for mature readers, and that warning should be heeded.

Final Rating: 9.0 (out of 10)

Before I read this issue for this review, I was fully expecting to give it no more than an 8.0. However, in realizing that Wesley has the classic hero’s journey, I had to re-evaluate my opinion of this comic. I now et more out of the entire series than I did before and really appreciate what Mark Millar created here.