The Killer, Volume 1Written by Matz; Illustrated by Luc JacamonArchaia; $19.95
As single issues, The Killer was a gorgeous, entrancing reading experience. Or rather, I imagine that it was. That was my experience with the two or three issues I bought before deciding to wait for the collection. The trouble was a sporadic publishing schedule and a story that didn’t really encourage a serialized approach. Issues were intimately connected with each other and there wasn’t much in the way of recapping from issue to issue. It was obvious that this was going to read much better in larger chunks. And so it does.
The title character is a nameless assassin-for-hire who operates out of Paris. As the story opens he’s holed up in a hotel across the street from the home of his next target's girlfriend. The problem is: his target hasn’t shown up for nine days and the Killer’s getting restless. As he continues to wait, he recalls past kills and how he got into this business. Through his narration he reveals an honest, non-hypocritical attitude about his life. He knows what he’s doing isn’t nice and he doesn’t apologize for it, but he thinks you’re the two-faced one if you condemn him for it.
Justification, complications, and James Bond after the break.
In his experience, he’s no worse than any other human and he’ll quote you the research to prove it. He knows about the civilian police force that killed 38,000 Jews during WWII. He’ll remind you about the endless massacres and genocides that spread over human history like cancer. He’ll gladly direct your attention to the sweatshops that produce the expensive shoes your kids are showing off with at school. But most importantly, he’s certainly not running out of clients willing to pay him to murder their relatives and business associates.
He enjoys his work, but doesn’t relish it. He’s good at it and finds it an easy way to make money, but it’s not something he wants to do for the rest of his life. In fact, he’s already making plans to retire. He even has a nice beach house on the tropical coast of Venezuela. What’s remarkable about The Killer – besides the lush art, that is – is that it’s a character study first and a thriller second. Complications do arise from the Killer’s seemingly interminable waiting and the stir-craziness that results (he can’t even leave his room for fear of missing his target), but these would be standard crime-drama developments if not for how well the reader gets to know this man. I never sympathized with his career choice, but I learned to – if not like him – then at least feel sorry for him. This is just Volume One, but I hope eventually to see him achieve the quiet life that he wants in the wilds of South America.
Matz and Jacamon solidify this hope by giving us a glimpse of it. I hope I’m not spoiling things too much by revealing that the Killer’s nine-day wait ends in sloppy results and he needs to leave Paris quickly. Not only because the police are now alerted to his existence, but also to recover from the tension and stress of the last week and a half. Unfortunately, the police are quicker than he suspects and one resourceful investigator trails the Killer to Venezuela where the adventure continues in the crocodile-infested jungle. You can discover what happens there for yourself, but it leads to other complications and so the story progresses, leading next to the Swiss alps.
There’s a real James Bond feel to the book, if Bond was more selfish in his motivations and didn’t quite trust M. But the focus on character echoes the best aspects of Ian Fleming’s novels and his ability to make me care about and respect a cold-blooded murderer. And the detail in Jacamon’s work reminds me not only of Fleming’s gift for description, but also of the movies’ ability to transport me all over the world.
Five out of five assassins on skis.