On the Road to Perdition Book 3: Detour
Writer: Max Allan Collins
Artist: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
many people, Road to Perdition signaled a return
of the hard-bitten true crime genre and the untapped possibilities
to be found in the comic book medium.
these people clearly never read Bendis’ torso
or any other non-superhero comic worth a damn, but what
do you expect when the book (published by Paradox Press
aka DC Comics posing as “legitimate”
artists) was packaged for the bookstore-going literati?
further insult to comicdom, when the property was adapted
into a movie, the filmmakers did everything in their power
to distance it from the “funny books," hoping
to gain greater respect by acting like the graphic novel
they hired the screenwriter from The Haunting (the
bad one), shoehorned in a licentious death-fetish photographer/hitman
as the main villain, dropped all historical and true crime
elements, and hired Tom Hanks to play a ‘20’s-era
Irish mob enforcer-
dammit, bringing sophistication to comics is what
Hollywood does best!
Max Allan Collins, not content leaving his masterpiece to
be mislabeled as “the graphic novel based on the movie!”
or “the book that inspired Conrad Hall’s cinematographic
swansong”, launched the On the Road to Perdition
mini-series last year.
new story began by recounting the opening of the Perdition
saga and then delved into an area the movie adaptation chose
to exploit in its central stretch that the novel left relatively
untouched: the six months the O’Sullivans were pulling
heists on Al Capone’s banks.
anyone new to the story, each installment has summarized
how Michael O’Sullivan and his hitman father of the
same name have been on the lam since he witnessed a killing
that prompted the local boss’s nutcase son to gun
down the entire O’Sullivan clan, thus keep the whole
thing hushed up. Unfortunately for him, the two Michaels
made it through alive and started a war on the entire criminal
final chapter, Michael Sr. (known as “The Angel of
Death” to the underworld) takes the battle to Kansas
City, outlaw mecca of the Midwest and one of the most recent
links in Capone’s empire. Leaving his son to sample
the local barbeque, he ambushes a cop he knew in the old
days (‘cause KC’s law is just as crooked as
Chicago’s) and, using his pilfered uniform, slips
into KCPD central for a snatch and grab on the department’s
dirty money. The heist leaves Capone down more than $150
large and has the once loyal Kansas City gangsters looking
to Chicago for some damn good answers.
Connor, slayer of Mike’s wife and younger son, ditches
the bodyguards keeping him locked down in a safehouse to
deal with the “Angel” personally. Word comes
to Mike through an old contact that Connor is planning to
hit one of the few places the O’Sullivans found shelter
in their months on the run. It doesn’t take Mike long
to figure out what Connor plans, but he’s too late,
finding another family dear to him destroyed by Connor’s
this time, he has a chance to save them all.
original Road to Perdition was a true crime book
with a toehold on pulp gangster novels, On the Road
to Perdition sets itself firmly in the pulp tradition
with little hints at true crime. The simple story of revenge
and redemption has grown into a saga where we know the ending
but find new adventure in the events leading up to that
inevitable conclusion. The dark loss-of-innocence themes
of the first story serve as a background to a rollicking
gangster story that glides from legends of late western
gunslingers through the American ganglands that existed
before the rise of federal law enforcement.
the story as a three part mini rather than a 300 page sequel
was a smart move, but I almost feel they could have gone
one better by releasing it in 10 or 12 parts to bridge the
gap between the bookstore and comic book crowds. The paperback
format chases off a number of comic fans who should be drooling
over this work, while, at the same time, it appeals strongly
to readers who may be disappointed by its unabashedly “comic
book” crime story.
sequel to Road to Perdition, this series doesn’t
really live up to expectations. No major revelations occur,
no bold new avenues are explored, the stakes aren’t
really raised, and nothing really approaches the bittersweet
moments of the original.
as a return to pulp crime comics, On the Road to Perdition
is a sheer joy to read. Max Allan Collins’ work on
Batman, Dick Tracy, and Mike Danger (created
by Mickey Spillane for the doomed Tekno Comics line) screams
out as you flip through the pages and relish the period-oriented
dialogue so blatantly missing from the movie adaptation
(though still not quite thick enough here, for my tastes).
grim stylings Collins adopted when he first borrowed the
plot (from the well known samurai-for-hire manga known to
American audiences as Lone
Wolf and Cub) blends with a spirit of adventure
for a mood matching the lawless cities of a younger America
as well as its forerunner’s matched a totalitarian
Japan. However, the overall effect makes for a better continuous
series than a single, solid story, which leaves me hoping
Collins will continue his depression-era crime story, somehow.
Luis Garcia-Lopez’s art suits the pulp story perfectly;
less cartoony than the extremes of some Batman books but
still miles away from mundane realism, it embraces the material
with a flair seen all too little since the death of the
‘50’s EC line. His gangsters and gunsels have
mugs like Dick Tracy villains, his women mix the ridiculous
sexuality of old Tijuana bibles with the grace of Betty
Page pinups and the personalities of Raymond Chandler stereotypes,
and his backgrounds brim over with period furnishings, archaic
decorations, and more brickwork than a Lakers game.
said, it isn’t the same beast as Richard Piers Rayner’s
photo-realistic quasi-woodcuts on the first story. While
there can be no doubt that it suits the spirit of this series
better than such stark, realistic pictures would, it’s
also largely responsible for the shift in mood and may contribute
to this being seen as “just a comic book” rather
than graphic literature.
dammit people, graphic novels don’t have to be sad
sack stories about lost souls coping with death every freakin’
time! Limiting what we can do with graphic narrative by
insisting it has to fit some schmuck’s definition
of “art” will just lead to the same stagnation
that we’ve seen in motion pictures.
it may sell more… but I’d rather see the industry
go down in flames than get to a point where everything has
to be either kiddie manga rip-offs or depressing theses
on the spirituality of menstruation.
the Road to Perdition isn’t an elegiac tale of
a woeful man doomed to die. It’s an adventure.
with any luck, the adventure will continue.