Last night, I read a noir comic called “The Killer” volume one by Matz and Jacamon. Originally French, the work has been translated and brought across the Atlantic due to it’s fame. The art is accessible, not hyper realistic, but also strangely devoid of the darkness that persists in most noir-centric comics. Matz style is extremely distinct, and his use of angle and color convey emotional depth throughout the story. For example, at a moment when The Killer appears to be slipping into insanity, the images on the page become choppy and skewed; an outward sign of his inward turmoil. The translation is decent, but there were several moments where I could tell that the verbiage didn’t quite fit; as if the translator didn’t have the language to express authorial intent. But these moments were seldom jarring, and overall immersion in the comic was easily maintained.
The plot of this first volume is clearly foundational– it defines the lifestyle of the hitman, as well as the occupational hazards of such a line of work. Next, the emotional state of our leading man is revealed, bit by bit. What initially seemed glassy on the surface turns out to be a disguise for great turbulence beneath. We’re indoctrinated with his gospel throughout, and we witness his self-inflicted alienation (while we’re simultaneously invited to pity him). Finally, we see him sever his remaining ties with humanity out of necessity– they reject him as he rejected them.
Standing at a distance, and reviewing the story from the beginning to the end of Volume One, “The Killer” is a marvelously succinct story whose complete components create a beautifully balanced work. I know there are subsequent volumes to read, but were the story to end with the final page of Volume One, I would still retain deep satisfaction and affection for this work.
“The Killer” vs. the noir definition:
1) The Seedy Underworld
A vast tapestry of settings is woven throughout the narrative– The urban sprawl, a lush jungle, white sand beaches, and snow powdered slopes.
2) The Anti-Hero
The Killer is a great character because he is so emotionally complex (although he doesn’t outwardly appear to be)– as the narrator, he is constantly preaching to the reader about his lifestyle, particularly he focuses on the justifications for killing the way he does. He speaks in absolutes, and of his estrangement from the cultural rot of society as a conscious decision. The hitman appears to have no regrets, no emotional baggage, or social attachments, but as the story progresses it becomes apparent that he hasn’t been preaching to the reader, he’s been preaching to himself. In his character flaws, his justifications, his shaky hands, and sweaty brow I found his redeeming quality; at his core, he’s killing himself.
3) The Femme Fatale
A girl he slept with in college who introduced him to his profession is the femme fatale. She remains a nameless flashback in his past, but it’s her influence that changes the moral trajectory of his life.
“The Killer” isn’t laden with any blatant misogyny apart from his professed aloofness in regards to the fairer sex. Women come and go, vehicles of pleasure and release, their companionship worthless in his eyes. Yet, there is one woman who remains on his estate in Venezuela… (Again, I believe he’s an untrustworthy narrator– I believe he cares for her or he wouldn’t let her so close).
The Killer is obsessed with the reasons for doing what he is doing– he is constantly explaining why he doesn’t need to be redeemed, but we realize he needs it more than anyone. He claims that his redemption is found in cash– but he doesn’t behave like someone who only cares about money.
6) The Loss of Innocence
I refuse to spoil the greatest scene in the book, but I will say that it’s the emotional climax of the nameless anti-hero’s character. It’s perfect.
Here and there, throughout– the thick cigar, the petite cigarette; chained together by the nervously smoking cast.
8 ) Emasculation
I’ve racked my brain on this, but I can’t find emasculation thematically in the text. Not that it isn’t there, or that it won’t become a prevalent theme later, but I didn’t recognize any in this volume.
I was surprised by the emotional depth of this noir comic, and I can’t wait to read the next one.