Posted - August 12, 2011 | Updated : August 27, 2015
It's always a good sign when I find myself laughing out loud at the end of a comicbook, and that's exactly what I was doing after reading the six-issue run of Wanted.
Mark Millar and J.G. Jones have created something wonderful. Let me show you why I think it's such a blast . . .
Ever hear that one about how they've already told all the stories? By this time, all the great themes have been written about and all there is left to tell are variations on these themes? I mean, how many 'Boy Meets Girl' movies have there been or will be? How about 'Vigilante Out For Vengeance'? What Millar has here is a variation on another classic theme: 'Rags to Riches'. That's right. Going from zero to hero. Having nothing to being a millionaire. That's right. This is what Wanted is all about. As a typical character from this comic would say, Millar's variation on this theme is "in-fucking-credible!".
Our villain (yes, villain) is Wesley Gibson, who works in an office in the city and lives a pretty miserable existence. This is not comicbook drama misery; it's plain, everyday, real desperation - the kind that we all have firsthand experience with. And this is the first reason I like Wanted: It convinces me that I am Wesley Gibson.
Cubicle, office, hating the nine-to-five grind of the rat race. Check, check and check.
Asshole boss. We've all had one at some point right?
Sesame-crusted salmon over sourdough with mustard greens and wasabi mayonnaise. Wesley's lunch eighteen months running. I want one.
Actually Wesley's girlfriend is described in unflattering terms but she's drawn pretty hot by J.G. Jones. I'm not complaining.
Additionally, Wesley get's picked on by some jerks on the way home from work, every single day.
But for me this is the kicker.
Wesley's childhood fight which ends with him being beaten up. Being a guy, this brings on feelings of shame, humiliation, bad, bad, stuff. I know because I also experienced losing a fist fight as a kid. Millar really gets to my core with this one.
All in all I can empathize, Millar creates that bond - at some point I feel I am Wesley.
And then the most remarkable thing happens. A revelation that life is not the way it is. Wesley happens to be an heir to not only great wealth but remarkable powers. Powers he inherited from his father, a super-villain known as the Killer. This part of the book feels like winning the lotto, that joyous rush, but before we get into that, just one final comment on Wesley's former life. Here he is resigning from work.
This is the only part of Wanted when I thought the movie was better than the comicbppk. In the movie, Wesley fires off a satisfying verbal attack on his abusive supervisor and an even more satisfying (shown in delectable slow motion) direct-to-the-face keyboard smash scene against his officemate/tormentor - you can even see the jerk's teeth flying off. But aside from this part, go with the comic, it is far better than the movie.
Going back to Wesley discovering his heritage - it's right up there with the jail break scene in Shawshank Redemption. What if today, no joke, you get money + powers? Yup. It's one of those great feel good moments we read comics for.
As the issues progress, we are taken deeper into the criminal organization Wesley is compelled to join for at least six months if he wants to get the cash. This particular group is one of five such 'arrangements' that collectively rule the earth. That's right, super-villains rule the earth. There was a big battle and they won and all the heroes are gone. Most of the villains remind me of somebody else.
The Professor is Shazam's Dr. Sivana.
The Emperor is Ra's Al Ghul.
Fuckwit is Bizarro
Fox is Catwoman (the Killer mentions that he 'stole her from the world's greatest detective'). Whether heroes or villains, Millar brilliantly leverages our familiarity with the DC Universe. Among the heroes, references about Batman are the most prominent.
One villain is so unique I just have to mention him.
This is Shithead, a sentience made up of the excrement of 666 of the most evil people who ever lived. Yup.
These villains, and a lot more of their compatriots, are all over the six issues, across parallel dimensions even. The story goes from the narrow focus on Wesley's life to the expansive introduction of this globe spanning crime organizations - it's quite a ride. Incidentally, villains won the battle against the heroes in 1986, the first year of the Modern Age of Comics and the end of the Bronze Age. Hmmm. We also have a villain wistfully referring to a time when 'the sky was bluer and food tasted better' bringing in mind the Golden Age of Comics. Double hmmm and all very interesting.
Wesley undergoes a lot of stuff as he is trained up to be a villain including this painful little exercise.
He undergoes a daily beat-up because he has to learn to take hits. What the Punisher grimly calls 'building up scar tissue'. This comicbook is so high up my macho-shit-o-meter it almost ruins itself by crossing over to bullshit-o-meter territory. But luckily, Millar is a better writer than that and the delicate balance is kept throughout.
At the core of Wanted is the great guilty pleasure of criminal actions without punishment. Wesley could and, on two occasions, goes through a killing spree without fear of arrest. I would say that us being able to go through this, not uncommon fantasy of just 'going crazy', within the pages of a comicbook does a lot to relieve stress levels. And it can only happen here in a work of fiction. Try this outside and you will get all kinds of busted. But in the world of Wanted, we become our worst selves, and there is a kind of freedom in that.
Once inculcated into his new life, Wesley becomes a world class jerk as well as a world class villain. I was annoyed until I realized that the characterization was dead-on. He's been stepped on all his life. Of course he's angry. And this anger comes out in lot of F-words and bad attitude. We are not left hanging with this though. Millar gives Wesley closure at the end, unlooked for, but a wonderful twist to the tale. Thankfully, I don't know what's it like to be abandoned by a parent, but I suspect that people who do, will find a stronger emotional tug at the end of Wanted than I have. Nonetheless this was a very well executed 'quiet' scene after the big battle. Really good ending.
Millar and Jones go from strength to strength with this one, my only sticking point is that Wesley's power is oversold - firing guns however accurately or fast is not a top level power, but against the wonderful canvass of Wanted, that's a minor point easily ignored.
This comic is absolutely stunning. Buy it. Now. You will not regret taking this ride.