Editor's Note: Head over to our Features Page to check out Charles' interview with writer Matz.
What is it that fascinates us about the hired killer in popular fiction? From Jean-Pierre Melville’s popularizing the hitman-with-a-code in Le Samourai (1967) to Chow Yun Fat’s making everyone want to wield 9mms in John Woo’s The Killer (1989) to the Deadly Vipers in Kill Bill (2003/2004) there’s something that draws us to those character who kill for money.
In truth, we should recoil from these people, these practitioners of homicide who stand outside of humanity by being willing to snuff it out. Matz, writer of The Killer recognizes this truth, having his unnamed lead character acknowledge his role as a predator in the world throughout the frequent narration in The Killer Volume Two.
Although this volume sees the lead creating human connections (in spite of himself), he still knows he is an outsider--a “man who show’s up in other men’s lives, who disappears like a shadow . . . a free man who wants to remain free whatever the cost.” Of course, the cost does not preclude taking the lives of others.
In this beautifully-produced volume, the lead character finds himself pressed into the service of a Latin American drug lord after a killing in the last volume caused some financial complications for the kingpin. The Killer is ordered to execute several hits as repayment with the bonus detail of having to bring the jefe’s nephew, Marciano, along.
Marciano is even more baggage for the lead who has begun keeping a beautiful woman who may or may not know (or care) what he does, but she has just the right balance of loyalty and discretion that he needs in a companion. As for the relationship between the Killer and Marciano, it is one of the many places where Matz engages the reader by subverting expectations. The interaction between the two would indicate a story that heads in one direction with Marciano as a victim of the conventions of this kind of crime fiction. However, Matz keeps the characters in mind and allows something interesting to develop.
Indeed, the character development is the greatest strength of the book as it keeps the reader engaged with a series of basic character types by simply following them and letting them live as human beings would.
The balance of the story in this volume deals with the lead doing his “work” while trying to discern why he was betrayed by his agent in the last volume. In that regard, an alligator motif that runs through the story, with the final page of this volume actually presenting a scientific summary of the traits of that animal as it relates to other predators in their environment.
The summary makes explicit the running theme of the book: The lead is so good (and sought after) in his chosen vocation because, like an alligator, he places a higher value on his own survival than other men would. It also brings into focus the reptilian nature of the character--he’s different from us, outside (and to his mind) above other men.
The art by Luc Jacamon is often very good but occasionally falters in its use of CG backgrounds that give the story an excessively artificial look. This artificiality is aided by colors that are sometimes a bit too garish and have a tendency to render all of the characters in a uniform brown (to the extent that it’s difficult at times to discern the ethnicities of some of the characters). Still, Jacamon nails the most important quality and that’s fine actors for the script to use, carrying the story’s emotion and action in equal measure.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins
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