For years I had heard great things about this French crime book known as Le Tueur, or in English, THE KILLER. As a huge fan of crime fiction, I owed it to myself to eventually check it out. That day finally came, and I held in my hands a beautiful hardcover from Archaia Studios, who came come to be known not only for their original graphic novel stories, but for also putting a lot of time and care into getting the packaging just right. This book is no exception. It looks great, feels great, and the dark hardback fits the mood of the material contained within.
Our story is quite simple: The main character is a hitman. He lives by a code of ethics and handpicks his jobs, all with the intention of retiring to his out of the way home in Venezuela after making five million dollars. He doesn’t enjoy the job, he’s just good at it. Throughout the pages we pick up details about his past, his family, and how to get into the murder business. In the present, the majority of the story takes place while he locates a target and has been waiting for his opportunity to take them out. In fact, he’s been waiting and waiting and waiting. This is where the story takes a turn from the typical crime fare and rather than watch our guy spray brains across the wall with a sniper rifle, we see the physical, emotional, and psychological effects that his job has on him. He’s isolated, bored, lonely, and ready to collect his money. So what happens when a deadly hitman starts to lose it?
The French creative team behind The Killer consist of writer Matz, with all art duties handled by Luc Jacamon. I always prefer stories that deal with character development rather than high octane action, so Matz’s storyline grabbed me immediately. Even though we spend a large majority of Volume One inside the Killer’s head, I was never bored, and I was never sure where we were headed next. The flashbacks were used both sparingly and tastefully, giving us information as we needed it, rather than dumping it all out in one massive sequence. At first look, you can’t imagine yourself having any sympathy for a character who murders others for money, and yet Matz’s writing gives him depth as a human and before long, we’re more concerned with the mental health of a murderer than we are with the person that he has in his targets.
Jacamon’s artwork suits the story very well, and provides an interesting juxtaposition to the story. It falls more on the cartoony side of things without damaging the story, much like how Brian Bendis’s Powers is supported by a Mike Oeming’s contrasting art. The Killer’s sequential style works and the visuals remain interesting. I had a blast reading each page and then going back to the first panel and appreciating Luc’s artwork. This is one of those times where the writing is so good, that the art could have been done by anyone and the story would still be great, though after spending time with Volume One, I couldn’t imagine, and wouldn’t want to see anyone else drawing it.
Originally released in France, this book has been translated into English and holds up very well. The names still remain French but it doesn’t detract from the story. The editing was great, and I can only think of a few times where the translation was a tad rough. I’m glad that the translation was done because I can’t imagine not being able to read this fantastic story. I learned a lot from it, and it was a new and refreshing take on an old idea.
Volumes 2 and 3 have also been released by Archaia, so I look forward to seeing how our Killer holds up as his perspective on the world continues to skew.
TO SUM IT UP: What does a hitman think about while he waits to take out his target? It’s more interesting than you might think.
If you enjoy a good character story where you can step out the norm and inside the psyche of a “bad guy,” then The Killer will keep you guessing and keep you entertained.