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The Road to PerditionWriter: Max Allan Collins

Artist: Richard Rayner

Publisher: Dark Horse

Synopsis: For Michael O'Sullivan, life is pretty simple. Sure, he's the most feared hitman in the organization of John Looney, a local mob boss; his nickname is "The Angel" (as in, "Of Death".) But he always has his wife and kids to come home to, to whom he maintains his role as steadfast family man. At least, until his son Michael Jr. stows away in the car to find out just what it is his dad does for a living. This sets off a chain of events that has the two heading on a cross-country quest to find revenge, tangling with Al Capone himself, and Michael trying to prevent his son from travelling the same road to hell he's currently walking.

How Is It?: Gee, this would make a good movie. Seriously, though, it's impossible for me to talk about this particular book without referencing the movie of the same name, which I saw first. Maybe that coloured my perceptions, but incredibly, I'd say the movie is actually better than the comic. Virtually every change Mendes and co. made works for the better, and makes the original seem campy or shallow. After all, this is in essence an extended shoot-em-up, with O'Sullivan leaving a trail of bodies across the country in his bid for revenge, while barely getting his own hair mussed. John Looney (Rooney in the film) is much more of a non-entity in the comic, not just because he's not being played by Paul Newman, but because he doesn't have the central conflict of the film's character; he's just a stereotypical evil overlord who doesn't hesitate to sell out his lifelong friend and loyal soldier (a fact which Capone's men actually bring up with some disdain). Capone himself also makes several appearancs, as does Elliot Ness, when leaving them offscreen in the film made it more powerful. And the revelling in violence and rather over-the-top nature of the shootouts, in this case, make for a less weighty read. The comic was inspired by the classic Japanese comic "Lone Wolf and Cub", and retains much of the violent, slashy black & white artwork of the former, but again the comparison makes "Perdition" suffer...the Japanese tale was far more atmospheric, subtle and masterful. Still, I'm being too hard on what is, after all, a well-conceived comic story; it's just that others seem to have executed it better elsewhere.

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