Review: The Killer Volume Two

By | March 30th, 2010
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When I finally read The Killer‘s first volume from Matz and Luc Jacamon and brought to America by Archaia, I was in love. I’d heard the towering hype behind this title and it was every bit as good as the sentiment that had been shared by critics and fans alike. Its neo-noir pastiche, stellar character work, and exciting visuals from modern genius Jacamon found me rapt with attention and eager for more.

That comes in the form of this second volume, out now from the same duo and once again from Archaia. Does it reach the levels of the first volume? Find out after the jump.

A major part of what worked in the first volume of this series was the feel of isolation and the rapidly fracturing psyche Matz conveys in our unnamed protagonist. It was exceptional character work Matz, and the narrative voice he gave this character left us as a reader in the dark and trying to piece together this sprawling story of betrayal just like our boy was. It was a formula that worked superbly, and no one would have shamed Matz if he continued on with that recipe.

Yet he doesn’t, as this volume finds the killer in a developing relationship and making friends (seriously). It’s beautiful work, and his friendship with collaborator Mariano especially gave this story a fresh wrinkle: this was a person he could share his work and himself with, and someone who acted as a great foil and juxtaposition to the protagonists exceptionally reserved self.

If we had just been given another story of betrayal and double crosses and questionable allegiances, this story would have felt like a warmed over version of volume one. Taking it in this new direction and giving the killer a reason to move forward and people to work through these issues with was a big step, and it helps this title perhaps even surpass the first volume.

All that doesn’t mean we aren’t given more of the same brooding and fiercely intelligent narration, and it isn’t wasted or cliched narration by any means. It allows Matz to not only help shed light on relationships and plot turns, but it also acts as a philosophical guidebook to this shrouded character. In a weaker writers hands it could have been a crutch, but Matz nails it.

Part of the reason this all works so well is the romanticization of hitman types (just like our boy and Mariano refer to in the book), and about how hitmen like this one always seem to feel like good guys just because they are so frequently dealing with much worse people. This dynamic makes the events that transpire not just acceptable but righteous in some ways, which is a curious feeling but a justified one I feel.

With all of the praise I have for Matz, it’s hard to imagine him overshadowed, but the real star of the book is Jacamon. This guy can flat out draw. He’s like a toned down Darwyn Cooke, weaving in classic and inventive paneling and some cartoon-ish yet realistic character models. He also has a real gift for detail, never cheating and always embracing the power the nooks and crannies of a panel may hold.

Given that Matz’ script takes readers across the globe, from Columbia to New York to Paris, you’d think it would be difficult for Jacamon to adapt to the decidedly different looks of those three locations. He has no issues at all, making each and every location feel real and authentic, giving the book a real base of realism not just in the proceedings on the page but in the environments they take place in.

As I said, I was a major fan of the first volume. In my mind, the loosening up of the character and the development of an actual cast boosts this book to even higher levels than the first one reached. I found myself really caring for these characters, and starting to connect with the lead on a far deeper level than I had before. It’s still exceptional noir, but it now has a heart to go with its brain.

David Harper