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Wanted Graphic Novel Review

Posted on April 19, 2011 by Flames

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    I first picked up “Wanted” in a Borders bookstore right before the film adaptation came out. There, I flipped through the first five pages and then, remembering the trailer for the film, promptly put it down, wondering which of these were better summaries of what the comic would have to offer. What I had read seemed amazing, what I had seen on the television… less so. And so I went the next few years without reading the comic or seeing the film adaptation, occasionally catching glimpses of the book’s cover and flipping through those first few pages again, wondering if I should take the plunge.

    When I first sat down to read it –to really, finally read it– the first thing I noticed was an introduction by Brian K. Vaughan. The praise of Vaughan, author of comic masterpieces like Y: The Last Man and Pride of Baghdad, would be invaluable to me as a reader, so I couldn’t have been more pleased or excited when I read his praise, including the statement:

    “[I]t’s only fitting that two of the sweetest, kindest men in comics would get together and produce what is unquestionably the most horrifically disturbing piece of fucked-up brilliance the universe of super-powered villainy has ever seen.”

    Immediately I knew I was in for a treat.

    Wanted is the tale of Wesley Gibson, an average, everyday loser. His job sucks, his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, and he suffers from some sort of self-induced anxiety (which he’s constantly Googling to come up with a name for). He has no backbone and constantly takes flack from everyone around him– until the death of his father, who happens to be a multimillionaire and one of the greatest supervillains to ever live. If all you’ve ever seen of Wanted are the movie trailers (or the movie, for that matter), I’ll bet you didn’t know this is a superhero story. I certainly didn’t know it, but it is– the world of Wanted is one run by supervillains, a worldwide network known as The Fraternity (and I don’t want to spoil anything by telling you about the heroes). Members of The Fraternity have free reign over the rest of humanity. They can kill, torture, destroy, and generally do whatever they want with no fear of repercussions, and they invite Wesley to join the club.

    The storyline of Wanted is engaging, to put it lightly. I had planned on reading the comic in two parts, but ended up reading it straight through as soon as I started. Once you start reading, it grabs you and doesn’t let go. Mark Millar’s tale is deep and entertaining, while still wallowing in violence, crude humor and grotesqueries. This is not a gentle read by any stretch of the imagination– colorful language of all sorts abound, rape and murder are casual pastimes, and one notable character is composed of the fecal matter of 666 of the world’s most evil historical figures. Nevertheless, what the graphic novel has to say is meaningful, and it’s perhaps one of the most socially-important superhero comics since Watchmen.

    Wesley Gibson is a fascinating character to watch, one who’s head you’re almost afraid to get into. Part Tyler Durden and part Patrick Bateman with a dash of Watchmen’s The Comedian thrown in, the young supervillain-in-training is a wholly compelling protagonist. The reader is never sure whether to root for Gibson in his endeavors. His dreams and aspirations are, after all, to rape, murder and pillage as much as he can, but there’s nevertheless something in him that keeps the reader engaged. The rest of the cast is equally intriguing, from the parasitic Sucker, to the ingenious Professor, to the terrifying Mister Rictus. Every character is well-thought out, complex and fascinating.

    JG Jones’ artwork is gorgeous, clean and effective, and works towards the story’s needs perfectly. Characters and backgrounds are crisp and unique– there will never be a problem confusing one character with another. Character design is equally interesting and fitting, as each villain has their own aesthetic feel perfectly fitted to their personality and backgrounds. You get the sense that the artwork is tailored to the story, and nowhere is this more clear than during flashbacks to the time of the Superheroes, during which the comic reverts to a Golden Age of Comics quality in which everything from the colors to the character designs are notably changed to fit the feel of the superhero era. Not to mention, it’s also a ton of fun to look through all the extras that abound through the pages, especially trying to pick out all of the cameos/parodies of famous superheroes.

    In summary, Wanted is a wild ride, and a ton of fun. If you only know it from the film, don’t let that influence you. If you like Watchmen, A Clockwork Orange, Fight Club or American Psycho, then don’t miss out on this .pdf collection; Wanted should be counted among the greats in social superhero fiction. It’s an ultra-violent, gruesome and crude tale of the best kind.

    Review by Zachary Woodard

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