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Gun Theory #1 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics/Epic Ė Daniel Way (w); Jon Proctor (a)
Now this was completely unexpected.
For one thing, Iíve read two books by Daniel Way and, frankly, I thought both of them sucked. One was an issue of Wolverine, put out right before the relaunch, where Logan picks up a hitchhiker and then kills him or something. I dunno. I canít really be bothered to remember it; I think my subconscious is trying to block it out. The other was the first issue of the new Venom ongoing, which I previously reviewed and hated.
Then you add in the fact that this is an Epic book, which doesnít exactly thrill me either, given the fact that the Epic title that Marvel threw all their marketing muscle behind (Trouble) was basically a trainwreck of a book, and you can see why I had my doubts about Gun Theory.
Writer you donít like / imprint thatís already disappointed you in a very short span of time. Not exactly a formula for success, in my book. But all the same, it turns out I was pleasantly surprised: Gun Theory is good. Damned good, as a matter of fact.
Itís a simple story, really; simple enough to be classified, unflatteringly, as archetypical. In fact, if someone were to call it cookie-cutter, I think Iíd be hard-pressed to disagree.
The lead character is a hitman by trade and apparently a damned good one to boot. Over the course of the issue, he carries out a contract killing (plus the murder of another poor bastard who had the misfortune to be in the same place at the wrong time) and collects his pay. Noticing the blood of his victim of his white shirt-sleeve and cursing himself as sloppy and unprofessional, he rushes away to a low-rent laundry service to have it cleaned, where he inadvertently foils a robbery and promptly falls in love at first sight.
See what I mean? It sounds like the hitman with a heart of gold story. And it doesnít matter if you replace hitman with hooker or con man or whatever in the previous sentence. The point is that weíve all seen the story where the career criminal goes straight for the love of a good woman (or man, as the case may be).
But this isnít that story. Not just yet, at any rate.
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What makes Gun Theory so notable, in my opinion, is the narration, which flows quite naturally. In other words, it reads like a real voice sounds. Thereís none of the usual stiff, clinical plot exposition narration. Instead, Way lets Proctorís rough, scratchy, Guy Davis-style art tell the story for him while he just sits back and transcribes our nameless assassinís inner monologue. So while heís straight-facedly gunning down two men in cold blood, heís bemoaning the fact that he missed breakfast that morning and planning (and rethinking and planning again) what heís going to eat when the job is done and his pockets are filled with hard-earned, ill-gotten cash. Afterwards, Way writes a fair bit of monologue dealing with the fine art of life as a contract killer, none of which slips into the usual clichťs, all of it sounding fairly logical (at least to me; itís like I know how hitmen think).
Now granted, the aforementioned thunderbolt of attraction for the woman in the laundry service is a bit contrived, but given the fact that the opening pages pretty much spell out the ending for you, Iím willing to let it go. Their story is clearly not going to come to a storybook end.
In the end, Gun Theory is pretty successful attempt at translating the Quentin Tarantino-style of filmmaking into sequential art. And by that, I mean that the plot is not necessarily told in strictly chronological order, the protagonist is more than a little shady and the dialogue just flat out pops. Iím giving Gun Theory a pretty high rating, not just because itís good (which it is), but also because of how good it is in relation to the creatorís previous work. Iíd be nothing short of thrilled if five years from now I could look back and say that Gun Theory was where Daniel Way turned the corner from being a guy who made Frank Tieriís Wolverine look like James Joyce by comparison to being a writer who's made a serious contribution to diversifying the output of mainstream comics. I mean, this is a Marvel comic, for Godís sake. That Daniel Way convinced them to put it out in the first place, even through Epic, is a pretty incredible feat, if you ask me.