By Justin McCarty
The cover to John Wick is really good. That I liked. The comic itself never really comes together. The cover though captures all of the neo-noir that the movie gives you. The comic itself. Not so much. I’m a John Wick fan, and I was looking forward to Dynamite getting this, but I was disappointed with the final result. I really didn’t want to write a bad review, like everybody else I thought the movies were amazing and saw no reason it wouldn’t be an amazing comic, my expectations were too high, I just couldn’t shake the overall feeling of meh.
This is John Wick’s origin story, and it starts us out in the southwest. John is on the trail of a bad man from his childhood, Pecos. As it happens, Pecos is an assassin, and he is there to hit (rob) another man, also an assassin. Pecos is one of the Three Bills; John watched these men slaughter innocent people in Mexico when he was a boy. We’ll likely see the other two, Buffalo and Billy, later in the run. With this interaction, though John has run up against some much bigger fish, an army of hit men, it is John Wick after all. As we follow John Wick, we’ll see him get introduced to the assassin’s business, the syndicates, and the rules of the game.
This issue just lacked the imagination and hallmarks that make the movies so much fun. There isn’t much backstory this issue, but what we got felt flat. So far the Three Bills just don’t seem that intriguing. While the art is good, it doesn’t fit the tone of the story. It misses the colors and noir of the movies that give John Wick so much of its overall feel and forbidding nature. (It was on that cover. Why it didn’t make it to the rest of the book is anyone’s guess.) I wanted this to take the formula from the movies and use the unique properties of comics to give us something exciting and original. What we got could have just been the first five minutes of a cable TV pilot.
John’s revenge mission couldn’t have been less interesting. There are some entertaining points in the book. The action is cooly rendered. There is some humor. I thought it lacked a solid hook, though. The story started us out in a diner and we have to put up with an obnoxious bad guy in the start, which is off-putting for some reason. The flashback adds an interesting dimension to John Wick but ultimately feels contrived for the story’s sake. (Maybe an origin story starting in childhood would have connected better?)
Overall, the book feels like it was dragged out to fill the page length. John Wick is a stoic character, but we spend a lot of time with John just looking at things. The artwork is fine for another book. The artwork I wanted was on the cover, John menacingly crouching over his man, his face lit in a wild purple and surrounded by the darkness, gun drawn, ready to act. I still can’t figure out why that look didn’t make it to the interior pages. They could have a great arc planned with lots of change and move us toward the style of the movies, but there wasn’t enough about that communicated in this issue to keep me on. I’m not sure I’d want to invest the money in that gamble when there are so many good comics on the shelves I could put that money toward.
If you don’t know John Wick you’ll get a lot more for your money by just picking up the movies, and you’ll get a much better feel for the character. If you are a John Wick fan, I really think this will only disappoint you. Go rewatch the movies. This has a long way to go before it does the source material justice.
John Wick #1