Friday, August 31, 2012

Reader's Diary #862- Max Allan Collins, art by Richard Piers Rayner: Road to Perdition

In case you haven't noticed I've been on a graphic novels kick lately. I'm usually more well-rounded than this, really I am. But I recently realized at the beginning of the month that I'd only read 3 so far this year— a far cry from the 12 I needed to read if I was going to meet the goal of the Graphic Novel Challenge I'd signed up for back in January. Fortunately, a trip to the local library revealed some great improvements in their GN section and I was able to find most titles on my wish list, including this one; Road to Perdition from writer Max Allan Collins and artist Richard Piers Raynor.

I, and I suspect like most people, first heard of Road to Perdition through the Tom Hanks movie version in 2002. I don't recall a lot about the film, which I guess says something. I'm not typically a fan of mafia movies or books, so I'm not surprised it didn't have much effect on me. That aside, I was still looking forward to reading the graphic novel.

It turns out I'm still not all that interested in the mafia or books about them. Road to Perdition tells a story about a hit man ("chief enforcer") named Michael O'Sullivan and his son who, after a dare from his younger brother, sneaks into his father's car, only to discover the truth about his father's job. Unfortunately, the boy is also discovered by O'Sullivan's partner and suddenly both father and son become the targets. Only when Michael discovers that his wife and youngest son have been murdered, it is not enough to run from his former employers but to exact revenge in the only way a hitman knows how. Told from the point of view of Michael's surviving son, Michael Jr., there's enough in the premise and voice to make it at least an entertaining premise.

Unfortunately, I had enough other issues with the writing. Presented as a mafia/father-and-son tale, I believe Collins' intention was to present a complex man, one with very defined light and dark sides. He loves his son, but he murders other people. Despite the attempt at a light side, I couldn't stand the guy, nor would I buy the loving father bit in real life. He's scum and if he wasn't in such a despicable job in the first place, Micheal Jr. wouldn't have lost his mother or younger brother. When he says crap like, "be whatever you want— as long as it's not like me" it reminds me of those parents who tell their kids not to take up smoking between long drags on a cigarette. There's also a religious angle thrown in, with Michael Sr. periodically visiting Catholic churches to confess his sins. I suppose we were suppose to look at it as a a troubled soul and feel sympathy. However, he leaves one confessional just to go murder yet a whole bunch of other people. It's like he's merely using the confessional booth as soap. Got rid of that guilt, good to go kill again. Easy as pie. And finally, the action is silly over-the-top Hollywood stuff. In one scene Michael Sr. slides down a bannister while shooting foes at the bottom. And he escapes so many bullets, I expected Rambo to show up to ask for pointers.

But on the very positive side, I really enjoyed Richard Piers Rayner's artwork. Using black and white, and very crisp, hatching techniques, there are many scenes and settings which seem very lifelike, especially the backdrops. They reminded me of newspaper clippings to the point where it seemed almost as if Rayner simply laid tracing paper over real photos, and just filled in the shaded areas. I'll probably look for other Rayner works again.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

This doesn't really sound like my first choice in reading materials, possibly also why I never felt a need to see the movie either.

At least there wasn't anyone walking slowly away from an explosion. Was there?

Max Allan Collins said...

Barbara, we've never met, but then you've never read my book, so we're even. The "Book Mine" reviewer is a good fit for you, because you have both decided in advance that you don't like something. No, no one walks away from explosions in ROAD TO PERDITION, the book or the film, and yes, the author understands that Michael O'Sullivan is a naive hypocrite. However, O'Sullivan is not the protagonist -- his son is. If you don't like the subject matter of a book, don't read it -- there you and I agree. This makes much more sense than the Book Mine reviewer reading the graphic novel that was the basis of a film he's largely forgotten.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: As Max pointed out, there was no explosion from which someone walked away from.

Max: Well, there was always a chance I'd have my mind changed. It wasn't, but there was a chance. It may not have appeared so, but my mind was open to the idea else I wouldn't have read it.