Tuesday, October 11, 2005


A History of Violence

A History of Violence
Written by John Wagner
Art by Vince Locke

This is the second title from Paradox Press’s short lived Paradox Graphic Mystery line that disappeared utterly when it was first released but has now probably sold a boatload of copies because of it being made into a movie (the first one being Road to Perdition).

John Wagner has had a massive influence on modern British comics and British comic writers through the 2000AD comic magazine. Wagner has written for this weekly anthology title since it started in the 1970s, creating or co-creating several of it’s best known characters (Judge Dredd, Stronium Dog) and writing some of the best stories the magazine has published. However Wagner hasn’t really had much of an effect on American comics directly (though in doing some research I’ve discovered he’s done far more work for American publishers then I’d realized, including writing a Xena comic of all things), this is probably due to his lack of interest in superheroes.

However he did write this comic which is now a “major motion picture” (and really, that’s the only reason I have this comic (well, that and because a friend gave it to me). And while it doesn’t feature superheroes it isn’t really something that could have been published in 2000ad either.

When I first heard of this title I thought, for some reason, that it would actually be a history of violence. Start off when one caveman hit another caveman or something and continue on through various wars (too much exposure to the Big Books that Paradox published I guess). “Why would someone want to make a movie out of that?” I thought.

Needless to say, I was completely and utterly wrong about what this comic was about. I went in having almost no idea of what it was about, and the only reason I knew anything about it at all was that I read the back of it when I got it. However reading the back of the comic actually decreased my enjoyment of the comic somewhat (I really need to stop doing that). It ruins some plot points that should be surprises. Interestingly, Wager refuses to tell the reader anything about the plot in the introduction because he hates it when people give away plot points.

So I’m not going to say anything about the plot.

What I will tell you is that A History of Violence is a crime comic. A violent crime comic (as if you couldn’t tell from the title). I can see why it was optioned to be a movie because it doesn’t really seem like a comic book story. It seems like a story that would work better as a movie. Does it work better as a movie? I don’t know, and in fact I don’t want to know.

Why? Not because this comic isn’t good (because it is good), but because there is some horribly violent and gross imagery in this comic that I don’t want to see represented by real life people (or close facsimiles). I’m squeamish. I don’t like gross stuff.

In fact I was going to criticise Vince Locke’s art (it’s scratchy and messy and I really don’t like it that much). But it is exactly this scratchy messiness that manages to deflect some of the grossness that would have been more evident if someone with a cleaner style had drawn the book. So, uh, top job Locke!

Overall though the comic is good. The story is interesting and flows well. So if you can deal with the uberviolence I’d say check it out.

Coming soon:
Reviews of Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth (by John Wagner and others) and Green Candles (another Paradox Graphic Mystery graphic novel).

(An aside:

Paradox Press seemed to have died off around 2000. Then Road to Perdition happened and that graphic novel was reprinted through the imprint and then the sequel comic was published through it as well. My copy of A History of Violence was published last year I guess (it has “Soon to be a major motion picture!” on the cover) and it was still Paradox Press then. But a new edition is out and I’m pretty sure it’s published through Vertigo. It’s sort of sad as I feel that books like this (and Harvey Pekar’s new book The Quitter, also coming out from Vertigo) don’t really fit in with Vertigo that well. The point of imprints sort of fail when you just seem to publish things in them randomly, which is often what DC seem to be doing these days.)


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