April 7, 2011

Getting Graphic: "Wanted" by Mark Millar & J.G. Jones


Wantedby Mark Millar
illustrated by J.G. Jones
Top Cow Productions (2008)
ISBN 9781582404974

What if superheroes and supervillains were real? Okay, now what if superheroes were gone and the world never knew they existed? Pretty messed up, right?

Well, it is messed. In fact, seeing the film adaptation of Wanted before even becoming aware the graphic novel existed really gave me expectations that were entirely out of proportion to what this book was about. Let's just say, my opinion of this book is probably the polar opposite to anyone who read the comic book before they saw the movie.

The book starts off with a lowly clerk in some cubicle lamenting his boring, depressing existence. He's going nowhere at work, his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, his boss is a total c-word, and he habitually Googles stress-related diseases and has more prescriptions than he count. His name is Wesley and he is a loser any way you look at it. That is until he is approached by a psychotic gun-toting hottie calling herself the Fox, who basically abducts him and tells him that his long-lost deadbeat dad was a supervillain--and he's just inherited the old man's fortune and place in the league of supervillains.

Wes has a hard time buying any of this since superheroes and supervillains only exist in comic books. And that's where things take an especially weird swing into left field. Because they do exist--or at least they did. All of the superheroes were killed off years ago in a huge apocalyptic battle, then the world's memories were wiped of them ever having existed, and the remaining defeated superheroes are given mediocre existences as TV parodies of themselves or senile old cronies rotting away in old folks homes. Now, the world is run by the supervillains who operate behind the curtain, as it were, and even have access to alternate dimensions to exploit those Earths and their resources.

It's an insanely convoluted world that's been created just to tell the story on one character's rise from obscurity.

I wanted to like the story, as I was one of the guys who really liked the movie Wanted, starring James McEvoy and Angelina Jolie. In the book, Wes is drawn to look like Eminem and the Fox is drawn as some hyper-sexualized Halle Berry. The whole tone of the book has a kind of angry, cynical, mean-spirited edge. And it made it extremely difficult to root for a single character in the book. Wes doesn't just find confidence and a rise to power, but he goes full-on evil. He kills and rapes indiscriminately, carries himself as vindictive and shallow, just about the whole way through. And when it looks like he's going to have an epiphany and rebuke his wayward path, he goes right back into his demented groove.

If you root for the villain, then you'll probably like this book, because it is a glorification of the bad guy mentality. But I need some kind of redeeming quality in a character if I'm going to give a shit about him, and Wes is just a depraved piece of garbage who becomes all the worse of an excuse for a human being by the end of the book. It's a tragedy, really. If it's satirical on a comic book world, then it's lost on me since I'm not immersed in that culture. It felt like fan fiction, to be perfectly honest, from a guy who resented the Superman's and Spider-Man's of the medium.

CymLowell

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