Graphic Content – Road To Perdition

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
19/501Title: Road To Perdition
Writer: Max Allan Collins
Illustrator: Richard Piers Rayner
Year: 1998
Country: USA

Yet another comic/book that has been finished during a long wait in a medical facility. It was 90 minutes of a complex balancing act of my tablet, my bad arm and my knee which was TOTALLY worth it. The only downside was the interest that it piqued with the sick man next to me, who then proceeded to cough his lungs out all over my tablet. At least he gave me a tissue to wipe my tablet down I guess (‘not enough fire in the world’ is a phrase that comes to mind).

I think that with Road To Perdition I have now touched a hand on all the major genres/types that have been included in the 1001 list. It stands as my first crime graphic novel as one as the first one that utterly fooled me into believing that it was telling a true story. It just felt that authentic… and it may have helped that I had not gotten around to either watching the Sam Mendes film based on this or reading Lone Wolf & Cub (the manga that this graphic novel was in homage to).

Road To Perdition takes you back to the world of the Great Depression, Al Capone and the Prohibition Act. It is the revenge tale of Michael O’Sullivan, a hired killer for the mob whose actions have earned him the nickname of ‘The Angel [of Death]’.

It is not too much of a spoiler to say that the body of this graphic novel is Michael taking revenge on the killers of his wife and youngest son, all whilst training up his oldest son to act as his getaway driver. The Perdition in the title acting as a double meaning for both the theological concept of eternal damnation and the physical location of Perdition, Kansas where Michael’s in-laws reside.

Reading this graphic novel made me think of the concept of moral relativism and how Michael tries to instil this idea into his son as a way to explain why he is going against God’s teachings. It’s one of things that I LOVE about mob movies, the fact that these people (usually Irish or Italians) are usually staunch Catholics and yet they are able to kill without mercy and without worrying about that specific commandment. I don’t know why, but as someone who went to Christian schools yet was never raised to be religious (and so am agnostic) I find religiously-based cognitive dissonances fascinating. In any case, the father pretty much fails to get his son to understand this idea of killing outside of self-defence or the defence of loved ones.

All this would be for nought if not for the beautifully drawn panels. The whole graphic novel has a noir feeling to it with the extreme violence (and the speed of the violence) being so wonderfully shown in the panels. There are moments of photorealism, which always keeps this graphic novel in the real world instead of allowing it to descend into comic violence. This is why I was so taken in by the story and assumed that other than the famous gangsters (like Al Capone and John Patrick Looney) everything that happened here was real. Maybe that’s because it was something so vehemently asserted by the narrator (a grown up Michael O’Sullivan Jr).

In any case, yet another very very different entry in this list. It just continues to show how much of an artform these graphic novels have really become.

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