A Little Confused Explanation Surrounding the Publication History of “The Killer” to Start
Trying to paste together the fractured pieces of the publication history of “The Killer” is a fool’s errand.
When “Volume 1” and “Volume 2” went on sale on Comixology recently, I jumped. (The books are still on sale half off, through March 16th!) These two books collect ten issues/albums, total, of the series. In print and on Kindle, these albums are available individually and in pairs and in omnibi and — I don’t know. I find the whole thing convoluted and confusing. I’m not sure what happened, but Archaia and now Boom!/Archaia have to make the best of a situation that’s pretty messed up.
Yes, there may very well be an easy explanation, but if you have to explain it to me, it’s messed up. This isn’t rocket science. If a new reader wants to read a series and your publication history/strategy makes it impossible to do so, the failure is not the consumer’s.
A Path to Readability
Here’s the current set-up, so let’s run with what we’ve got:
“The Killer” starts with a ten issue series. Comixology offers two volumes collecting it all. The first volume has issues #1 – #4. The second volume carries #5 – #10.
Or you could buy the individual issues, which would be more expensive.
This article will be a review of “The Killer”, v1: “Long Fire”. In its own way, it provides a single contained story. Yes, there’s a dangling plot point or two, but if another issue had never come out, this book would tell The Killer’s story well enough on its own.
There’s a second collection, titled “Debt,” that comes after this and will get you to issue #10 of the original series.
After that, things get screwy.
You can buy the Omnibus, volume 2, that collects the third and fourth volumes of the series, followed by volume 5, “Fight or Flight”, that purports to be the finale of the series. Each of those two books will run you $25 (nearly 4x the price of each of the first two books).
The Omnibus isn’t available on Comixology, nor are volumes 3 and 4 separately. You can buy a print edition of the second Omnibus on Amazon for $17, but the first Omnibus is out of print. I hope you’re not the kind of collector who likes consistency. ( If you’re a Hybrid Collector, though, you’re set. )
Here’s a link if you’re so inclined:
Then there’s “Modus Vivendi,” which is a six issue mini-series, of which five issues are available on Comixology now, and I have no idea which volume they’re a part of. And if the series is complete already, why is the last issue missing?
Here’s how I’m going to handle this: I’m going to read volumes 1 and 2 and pretend that’s it. Someday, the gaps will be filled in on Comixology and things might make enough sense to finish reading the series.
I’d like that, because this is a darn good book.
What Is “The Killer”?
Single named author Matz’s story is about a hitman. It’s half essay on the life of a man who does the job, and half tense thriller.
The majority of this book is set up with one case, where The Killer is locked into a hotel room, watching through a window across the street for his mark to arrive. He’s a professional. He knows his job. He knows his prey. He just needs to be patient and get the job done with his sniper’s skill at shooting through a window from across the street. Then, it’s a quick and quiet escape out of the country.
But the mark isn’t showing up for days and days, when he’s supposed to. It’s slowly driving The Killer mad.
In the meantime, he’s thinking out loud to the reader about this life and his theory on people. The Killer is not sadistic. He’s clear-headed, rational, and logical. It leads to some very dark places, but he doesn’t want to be the office drone sort, and he can’t deal with people in the way that we usually deal with each other — bold-faced lies, pleasantries in lieu of honesty, etc.
He is perhaps the most dangerous type of criminal: the one who knows he’s right and has thought this all through. He can justify anything he does, usually by pointing out perceived hypocrisy from the other side.
He also lives by a code that keeps him out of trouble. He’s quiet, discreet, and alone. He can’t afford to develop relationships with his targets. He can only blend in, be patient, and choose his spot.
He is paid handsomely for his work, but can’t spend it for fear of standing out. The job of a hit man is to not stand out and to blend in in every way possible.
His narration of the book is fascinating to me, like an Ed Brubaker crime script. It’s very theoretical and human, in addition to the procedural and plot-centric parts. It gets to all the whys and the hows. He’ll win you over with his cool analytical voice and strict professionalism.
Matz keeps the book moving by illustrating The Killers’ points with stories from his past. Yes, we get the origin story, but we also get how his career has grown and evolved, plus all the things he’s learned (particularly from his mistakes.) While the book is really about one big case, Matz sprinkles lots of shorter stories along the way in an effective manner.
The Art of “The Killer”
The art from Luc Jacamon is very open for the colors, and also in the storytelling. This isn’t a classic bandes dessinees where you get a dozen panels per page. This looks a lot more like a standard North American crime comic. In fact, it might even be more open. Two and three tier panels are the norm. Four or five panel pages are common. For a BD book, it feels very loose in its construction. If you’re new to BD and looking for something, artistically, with a more North American landscape and feel, “The Killer” would be an easy and comfortable read.
Caption boxes dot the landscape. While numerous, they don’t drag the book down. The series moves at a good clip. Writer Matz (with the translation he assists Edward Gauvin in doing) has a good ear for dialogue and internal monologue. It pulls you through the comic. The Killer’s confidence shines through those captions, giving his ideas a certain credence that a lesser character would not deserve.
You can read “The Killer” fairly quickly. It is, as befits a thriller, a real page turner. And if you’ve read enough comics in your life, you know to expect surprises at the page turns, so all those turns will keep you in the moment, wondering if something dramatic or shocking is going to happen next.
Jacamon’s art stands out in large part thanks to his own color work. It’s deceptively simple, until you look more closely at everything going on with a page, and you start to see the little intricacies that flesh out his relatively detail-free art. In particular, check out an outdoors scene for the chaotic shadows he includes. Any slash of light that falls through a tree or a window’s blinds gets its own sliver of shade around it.
In this example, the forest floor turns into something resembling camoflouge from the way Jacamon slashes the shadows onto the ground and across the tree barks. It gives you a very clear picture of where the light source is coming from, and how much Jacamon considers his light sources while coloring in his own work.
Here’s another example from inside a hotel room, where the light peeking through the blinds creates interesting lighting effects:
Yes, particularly if you enjoy a crime comic like something Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips put together, or like Brian Bendis once did on his own. This book is, in a way, a very mental exercise, yet there’s a lot of sharp moments that keep the blood pumping. That’s a tough balance to pull out, but Matz and Jacamon do it.
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #28.)