Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: Trigger Men, Volumes 1-4

I hate organized crime.  To say criminals--organized or otherwise--are a blight upon civilized societies would be stating my opinion mildly. 
Because of my animosity towards the criminal underworld, I'm not interested in books, movies or TV programs centered around mafia bosses, drug kingpins and their ilk.  I've never watched the The Sopranos...
...nor am I tuned into Boardwalk Empire
Heck, would you believe I haven't even seen The Godfather
However, a year ago I wouldn't have considered watching an on-line adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, either.  (See my April 1st blogpost for all the details).
So I guess I am capable of exploring new genres--occasionally.
One such occasion was this year's Emerald City Comicon, where I stumbled across the folks at Triptych Books.  The company launched a Kickstarter Campaign two years ago and snagged over 60 backers to fund their first project:  Trigger Men
I chatted with Kyle Winters, the company's manager, who described Trigger Men as a "a dark comedy buddy story about hit men, instead of cops."  I was intrigued, but held off purchasing the graphic novel until the last day.
Big mistake. 
The graphic novel was sold out, so I had to settle for buying the four individual volumes instead.
Trigger Men is a tale of two life-long friends, Matt Whit and Jason McCarthy and their misadventures as hit men.  Don't let their metrosexual appearance fool you.  By "misadventures," I mean the circumstances they find themselves in, along with their friendly and not-so friendly banter. 
Jason's devil-may-care attitude is often (always?) the cause for the predicaments the duo find themselves in.  However, this doesn't mean he's shallow either.  At one point his friendship with Matt is tested in a small, buy highly significant way.
Matt on the other hand, is the more serious and contemplative of the two.  He feels protective of those he cares about and therefore, appears to have the most to lose.
Which makes him the most dangerous of the two.
This doesn't mean Matt is without flaws.  He's incapable of expressing his feelings to those he cares about (except for Jason)--even to the very people he feels need his protection.
While Trigger Men is indeed a black comedy, it's not what I like most about it. As I read the story, I kept asking myself:  Why did these two become hit-men?
There are several hints--and only hints--about Matt and Jason's past.  And this is what I admire most about Trigger Men:  The author's deft handling of backstory.
Too often, writers become enthralled with the characters they create, so they want to explain EVERYTHING to the reader.  This usually manifests itself as flashbacks or exposition ("data dump"), just to name the two most infamous types.
Such literary devices bring the forward momentum of the story to a screeching halt. 
Just about every writer is, or has been, guilty of this sin at one time or another.  (I'm typing this one-handed because I have the other one raised).
Mike Andersen does an excellent job of tossing out tantalizing nuggets of background information, without bludgeoning the reader with details.  This is the best way to keep the reader reading, because it fuels the desire to learn more about the characters.
I have a hunch--but only a hunch--on what some of these catalysts were that drove Matt and Jason down the dark path they're treading.
Heather Brinesh's stark, black and white artwork enhances the noir feel of the story. 
The violence in this graphic novel can be--well--graphic, but it's not gratuitous either. 
Despite my misgivings about crime-lit, Trigger Men is a 5-star read. 
Speaking of reading, you can check out Chapters 1 & 2, offered in PDF from the Triptych website. 
And if you're interested in how Kyle and Mike got started, here's an interview conducted by Jason Vaughn of Meltdown Comics.


DeanM said...

Great reviews, Ted. You certainly have the knack. Best, Dean

Ted Henkle said...

Thanks Dean! This is an intriguing series.