Friday, August 23, 2013
Reader's Diary #1052- John Wagner (writer) and Vince Locke (illustrator): A History of Violence
With that long-winded self-reflection (see, still apologetic!), I picked up A History of Violence based on its having been turned into a critically acclaimed movie. I don't remember much about the movie. I know I wasn't crazy about Viggo Mortensen's performance, but I never am. Had I dug a little deeper I would have discovered that while the movie generated mostly good reviews (even had a couple Oscar noms), the graphic novel reviews are much more varied. It certainly doesn't show up in many top 10 lists!
Nor should it. My first clue that I wouldn't like this should have been the author: John Wagner. John Wagner created Judge Dredd. And while other writers may have done wonderful things with the character since then, I was not a fan of Wagner's early Dredd work. I will say that his writing has come a long way since then, but there were still some major flaws with A History of Violence.
The book begins on a very promising note. When Tom McKenna, a small town diner owner, defends himself against a random act of violence he makes the headlines. Unfortunately, after his new claim to fame a mysterious black sedan starts following him around and he's eventually confronted by someone who insists on calling him Joey. It appears as if it's a case of mistaken identity. And that would have been the more interesting story. Alas, it's not and very quickly the story dissolves into another silly mafia story (which apparently I have no business reading). What is perhaps most annoying is the character of Edie, Tom's wife. Though Tom has been lying to her all these years about his background, though his lies have put their family's lives in danger, she forgives him and promises to stick with him, without missing a beat. We all know people who stick by their spouses when they clearly shouldn't (I'm looking at you Anthony Weiner's wife), but we'd like to imagine that they have complex reasons for doing so. Or at the very least, an argument. Wagner offers us neither and instead presents us with a flat, unrealistic, and rather distractingly stupid character.
As for Vince Locke's artwork, I'm slightly less critical. With very rough black ink sketches, the gritty quality adds to the violence and noir (or is it neo-noir?) story. However, sometimes the drawings appeared so rushed that faces were grotesque— not including the ones that were intentionally so— and action sequences were confusing. A little more attention to detail would have been nice.
The book had much more potential but ultimately let me down. If the critics are to be believed, the movie version managed to work out the kinks.
Speaking of graphic novels that have been turned into movies, I'm very much looking forward to getting my copy of Blue is the Warmest Colour in the mail. Unashamedly.