Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: J.G. Jones
Publisher: Top Cow/Image
Following the first issue's revelation that his recently-murdered father was a nefarious super-villain, Wesley Gibson chooses to abandon his mundane, empty life to follow in the footsteps of his old man, working for a Bilderberg-esque group of super-villains who run the world. This issue follows his training, turning him from mild-mannered, put-upon office boy into an emotionless, amoral murderer who does what the fuck he wants, kills who the fuck he wants, and fucks who the fuck he wants. At Wesley's induction, which involves the sacrificial burning of a Marvel comic, he encounters Mr Rictus, his father's old employer (and killer?), who appears to be planning a coup.
Wanted takes the classic wish-fulfilment formula of superhero comics to much darker, less noble places. Where the characters like Peter Parker appealed to readers as they too were shy, awkward teenagers, Wesley Gibson will appeal to the current comics-reading demographic as they are likely to relate to an underpaid office drone's boring, humdrum life. Offered the choice between that lifestyle and the chance to give a great big "fuck you" to everything wrong with your life, and everyone who made it that way, it's fairly obvious which route would be chosen. Millar successfully makes you empathise with a murderer. Thanks, Mark!
It's unlikely that this title would have appeared outside of “Millarworld" - I certainly wouldn't expect to see Marvel or DC publish a book in which the protagonist ("hero" would certainly not be the right word) rapes and/or kills everyone who's ever been as much as a minor irritant. Everyone, that is, except his cheating girlfriend. Hmm. Wonder if that particular oversight is going to come back to bite him on the arse in a later issue?
Underneath the graphic violence there's also a nice satire on the characters and conventions of superheroes, particularly the DC universe, with many of the assembly of villains resembling slightly more famous characters. The references to the "final battle. in 1986", the wheelchair-bound ex-superhero and the final shot of a tattered cape are also indicators of Millar's intentions. The appearance of a woman dressed as a cat, however, is perhaps a little too blatant.
I must admit to being a newcomer to the art of J.G. Jones, whose work reminds me somewhat of George Perez, displaying great attention to detail without appearing overly-busy or confusing. Jones may have been chosen as the artist due to his fairly realistic style suiting the (almost) real-world tone of the book, or he may have been chosen due to the slight similarity in style to Perez. Either way, he was a good choice.
Issue one set up the premise of the book; issue two follows the induction of Wesley into the governing body of super-villains. The next issue is, I expect, where the fun really begins. Wanted rewrites that hoary old comic-book proverb as "with great power comes doing whatever the fuck you like", managing to subvert, celebrate and commentate on the superhero genre and its idiosyncrasies, while at the same time answering the question that has no doubt bothered comics fans for many a year: what would happen if the villains won? It's definitely worth finding out.
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