Wanted review by Armeka Jackson
Written by Mark Millar
Art by J.G. Jones
From the first page to the last, Wanted is a big "Screw You" to your life, your job, your belongings, your relationships, and you. Before or after you check out the film, you owe it yourself to read it in all its graphic novel glory. It's violent, funny as hell, and one of the best, most successful creator-owned comic book series of the 2000s.
Stories like this are where Mark Millar truly shines. It's no surprise the idea for Wanted came early in his childhood, after being told by an older sibling that all the heroes were real, but had died long ago. Millar's most recent projects explore similar themes of the world of comics somehow invading us and how the main characters react to it, in wide-eyed whimsy and amazement (Marvel 1985) or embracing it as a self-destructive call to arms (Kick-Ass).
Much like The Matrix's Neo developing a rage against the machine and Fight Club's Tyler Durden rebelling against commercialism by punching his fellow man, Wanted starts with cubicle hypochondriac Wesley Gibson. His boss laughs at him, his girl cheats on him with his best friend, and street thugs pick on him on his way home. Unlike Keanu and Brad Pitt, however, Wesley Gibson has powerful bloodlines that will help him become the man he never knew he wanted to be. Halle Berry look-alike the Fox, a member of a group of supervillains known as the Fraternity, stops Wesley from ordering his favorite vegan sandwich to demand that he give his job and his life the finger and live out his innermost desires by joining her. To drive the point home, she murders every living thing in the deli. Wesley is revealed to be the son of supervillain royalty the Killer, the most dangerous assassin in the world. The Killer's death led to the discovery of Wesley, who now is to be trained by various members of the society to follow in dear old dad's bullet-riddled footsteps. With his father's costume, new white rapper haircut, and hereditary aim that can shoot the wings off insects, he takes his father's alter-ego and joins the Fraternity in the midst of a power struggle within the leaders of the group.
J.G. Jones draws the twisted world of Wanted with beautiful gory detail and mayhem. You will need more than a few readings to catch all the slight (and not so slight) nods to not only characters and gimmicks from superhero comics, but references to freemasonry and the Illuminati. DC Comics gets it the worst though. Nearly every character in Wanted is inspired by one in DC, whether it be in homage or outright ridicule. A lot of the fun in reading Wanted is trying to spot the little in-jokes and visual cues that Millar and Jones throw in. Try to catch references to Spider-Man, Bizarro speak, and alternate earths, in the first chapter alone.
Many fans were disappointed to hear that the movie adaptation of Wanted would not stay as close to the source material as one would like. Though I have not yet seen the film version, I can almost guarantee that the comic book's best scenes, lines, and side stories will most likely be ignored. Wanted touches on the most vile and taboo subjects without batting an eye. Rape, killing complete innocents, sodomy, death by feces, a man with who receives crime orders from his genitalia (based on Batman villain The Ventriloquist); it's all in there, and it would be naïve for one to think that all this would be properly transferred onto a movie without uproar, or even an NC-17 rating. Sometimes what works on paper doesn't always works on the big screen.
Where Millar does not succeed, unfortunately, is in some poor choices for dialogue. Some lines seem to go from cliché to completely corny and even worse, it happens during some of the best scenes. After Wesley is allowed to kill his first victim, the guy who on behalf of the Fraternity, has for five weeks been beating him to a pulp to get rid of his fear of being beaten to a pulp. Wesley narrates that killing is like popping Pringles potato chips: you can't stop after one. Later he uses another food analogy, saying that he looks so handsome in his father's old costume, he would eat himself if he was made out of chocolate. I understand that Wesley, underneath his killer aim and new bloodlust, is still a nerd at heart, but did we really need such lame speak to illustrate the point?
Luckily, a few cheesy lines of dialogue are a minor complaint, and shouldn't keep anyone from enjoying Wanted. It works as an exploration of our darkest desires, despite at times being so vile, nasty, and immoral, you expect it to leave dirt under your fingernails after every page. Maybe in some strange ways, we all want the villains to win sometimes. In Wanted, they do. They win big.