I'm a big fan of The Killer, the tale of a hitman for hire with complicated existential problems. The stories by Matz and Jacamon in the previous three volumes of this graphic novel series are always thoughtful and smart, full of exotic destinations and difficult moral choices – kind of a Bourne with a soul.
The latest volume of The Killer takes readers away from what made this series so powerful. The new direction reads as a way of broadening the character of the hitman and giving him more complexity. But those efforts, while noble, are also frustrating as a reader. Not only have we lost our mooring with a character that we've followed through three previous collections, but we also are dragged into a plotline that is much more difficult to follow in comics than previous adventures were.
In this latest graphic novel, our killer emerges from retirement not to gun down some political enemy or Mafioso, but to get involved in a giant geopolitical struggle to start a major oil business in Cuba. And yes, the events involved in setting up that enterprise are, for the most part, as dull and talky as you might expect. We readers are dragged into a complex tale with many different players but we don't have huge stake in what happens, nor do Matz and Jacamon have the space to give us full context on all the story elements. It's interesting enough to consider what the reaction of the United States would be to those sorts of events; however, Matz doesn’t bring those aspects of the plot alive. Maybe there's a weak translation to this book, but I found myself bored to tears by the giant walls of text.
If you're the kind of reader who gets excited by the page shown above, you're exactly the kind of person who will love this book.
It's a shame, because as always Luc Jacamon does a brilliant job at displaying the diverse settings in this book. He has a tremendous sense of space, as you can see from the page above that depicts a scene along the Mexico-US border, or the page below that takes place in the Venezuelan rain forest.
Jacamon's art has this uncanny ability to transport the reader to the place that's being depicted, to make us feel like we're setting foot in the same places that the characters are walking. His mastery of thick-and-thin line is well on display on the page above; notice how easily he moves the eye while never causing us to lose our focal point. Yes, the two men in the larger panel below are colored to stand out from the vegetation, but he's also outstanding at focusing the eye on that key element of the scene.
When he's given the opportunity to spread out or show action, Jacamon shines, as in this dynamic motorcycle chase scene:
I wish Jacamon had been given more room to spread out with his art, because he spends a lot of time in Unfair Competition showing talking heads discussing oil rights and political machinations. It's great that the world of the Killer is growing, and that our formerly conflicted lead character is able to really enjoy the freedom of his retirement. But I just didn't find the Killer's business plans in retirement to be very interesting to read about. How's your 401k doing, killer?