Monday, July 18, 2011

Comic Book Review- Road to Perdition - By Max Allen Collins and Richard Piers Rayner

A little known fact regarding the 2002 hit starring Tom Hanks, often regarded as the best recent gangster film, is that it began life a few years earlier as a comic book, or ‘graphic novel’ if you like that term. I’ll try to keep the comparisons between the book and the film to a minimum though there are a small few I would like to make. I’ll get one out of the way now; forget Jude Law’s character, he was, to my knowledge, an entirely new addition for the film; perhaps used to create a better dual storyline. Other than this, the film is rather faithful to the book.

It was only in doing my research for this review that I realised that I had been impressed by the artist, Rayner’s, work before. His gorgeous, slightly hyper-real style was put to tremendous use on the Hellblazer story arc ‘The Devil You Know’ in 1988. I had the pleasure of  reading twenty or so comics older than myself over the past while with good old Hellblazer. However, Rayner takes that style in a different direction with Perdition. No bright four-colour panels here, instead the artist goes for bleak black and white pen and ink drawings with a lean towards extreme photorealism. He keeps his character models very consistent and I suspect he used real models as the basis for possibly every individual character. Indeed our main protagonist, Michael O’Sullivan, The Angel of Death, is oddly familiar.

The story is that of a father and son on the run and at the same time seeking vengeance. Michael O’Sullivan is a hitman for an Irish American gangster family with an old man named Looney at the top. After O’Sullivan’s son, Michael Junior, witnesses his father and Looney’s heartless son Connor, doing what gangsters do best, Connor decides to guarantee that nobody talks. After murdering O’Sullivan’s wife and youngest son, who he mistook for the boy who was witness, Connor goes into hiding, his father and fellow gangsters protecting him as best they can but they all know that they may not be good enough to stop The Angel of Death.

The trail of dead men grows to an unsightly level (Rayner never lets up on the, shall I say, tastefully depicted gore?) as O’Sullivan and his son, who must learn some of the gangster ropes on the way, go all the way to the top to do what must be done: find and destroy Connor. Collins cleverly works in real historical characters, most daring of which is Al Capone himself.

Collins goes out of his way to make his characters stunningly real and artist Rayner has excelled himself in helping this to be even more true with the final product. The book has a certain ferocity that I feel the film adaptation lacked. In terms of violence and good old fashioned action the book is closer to ‘Casino Royal’ were it based in the Great Depression (that’s the 1929 depression, not the 2008). Yet there is a poor flow to the book and a needlessly abrupt ending which is also a touch predictable. This, I felt, was the only drawback to my full enjoyment of the adventure.

To sum up, don’t expect just to see in still pictures what you may have seen on film, this is at times a subtly, and at others, a radically different Mobster tragedy. I intend to get my hands on the sequels despite my qualms over this book’s ending. Impeccably beautiful artwork coupled with solid characters and tasteful narration, Road to Perdition is one to check out for the lovers of comics put to proper use.

Road to Perdition by Max Allen Collins
Drawn by Richard Piers Rayner
Rating: 7/10
For fans of: Sin City, Hell Blazer, Mob orientated Batman
By Edward Gerard Brophy
For Born Again Nihilist 2011

No comments:

Post a Comment