A History of Violence
John Wagner & Vince Locke
Review by Seth
In the 1990s John Wagner really hit his stride he was turning out some classic stuff. Even though some of the Prog was a bit bobbins, Wagner was writing some of his strongest work as Button Man, Young Death, America (forever lauded, hyped to death, but really is a fab piece of work) and his long game on Dredd. Stuff of genius all.
This is a little bit of a curio from that period, possibly overlooked were it not for the David Cronenberg adapatation from 2005 (haven’t seen it), but I bought this purely on the strength of Mr.W. Published by a now defunct imprint of DC Comics, “History of Violence” is a hard boiled crime thriller, the kind of thing Wagner excels at. I’m arguing that this qualifies for this site by virtue of its author, and that Locke has drawn some Dredd for 2000ad in the last few years. Anyway, these are my goal posts and I’m moving them wherever I want.
“A History of Violence” tells the story of Tom McKenna a small town shop owner who wants a quiet life, but has a dark secret. When he single handedly defends his business from a robbery, he draws unwanted national attention to himself and those closest to him.
Tom has a history that he has been running from, but now it has caught up with him and soon, he and his family are fighting for their lives, and he is forced to confront his past.
This is quintessential Wagner. Occasionally there are plot developments which stretch credibility and the ending is a smidge abrupt, but on the whole Wagner creates sympathetic characters a believeable small town atmosphere and the ensuing chaos following the visit of the Mafioso. He succeeds in creating a stark contrast between homely coffee shop running Tom and the naive young tearaway who makes one fatal mistake that places his future at risk.
Locke’s wire brush linework, scratchy, nervy characters figures, occasionally indistinct but perfect for illustrating the horror at the climax.
Neither creator hesitates in doling out the horror, and it does get quite violent. But Locke doesn’t go for out and out gore, whilst everything is laid on the page, the sketchy, nervy lines give an outline, more of a heavy hint, of the violence in the story.
Paradox didn’t last long, and Wagner hasn’t tried anything in this “Lone Wolf & Cub” format since. Bizarrely, this isn’t a mainstream comic genre, but would be a nice fit with Oni, Dark Horse, or Image these days. Time for a reprint?
Definitely worth picking up.