Before failing in 2011, MF Global had over $41 billion in assets. Investment banking firm Lehman Brothers had more than $600 billion and its collapse sparked the global financial crisis of ’08. From ENRON to Conrad Black (a bit of Canadian flair for you) the infamous reputation of the ‘One Percent’ precedes them. Fueled by greed and a gluttonous appetite for power, they build their fortunes on the backs of the middle-class while completely disregarding the poor. Their authority is unquestionable, their influence undeniable. So, in a world that willingly turns a blind eye to the corruption that infects it, who can we turn to for justice? Who will enact our revenge? The answer is Kaare Kyle Andrews’ new creator-owned title Renato Jones: The One %. Renato Jones' world is not all unlike our own: the wealthiest ‘one percent’ of the population dictate the global financial economy for the remaining ninety nine. They operate with complete impunity, zero accountability and no regard for the laws and lives they destroy; Renato Jones seeks to make them pay. He’s a tragedy-born, masked vigilante out to balance the scales of inequality by targeting those who would use their means to pervert society. It’s Dexter/meets Robin Hood/meets Agent 47 and it’s the best new release of 2016, thus far.
It practically screams at you with its candle-glow yellow cover and the art is nothing if not a true ode to Dionysian excess. Andrews depicts a masquerade party sex-orgy with Renato Jones at the forefront, supporting a woman in clad lingerie and uttering his regrettable one-liner “Choke on THI$”. My initial interpretation at first had me thinking that everyone was dead, presumably poisoned since there were so many knocked-over wine bottles/glasses. It followed logically that Renato had killed them but after having read the issue I now believe this to be false. First of all, poison isn’t his style; too subtle. Beyond that, the dead woman in his arms really bothered me – it just seemed completely contrary to Renato’s character portrayal. Then I noticed the glass in her hand and it hit me: she isn’t dead! (kind of hard to hold a glass if you’re dead, DUH). The cover isn’t trying to show the brutality of Renato Jones, it’s a metaphor explaining Andrews’ outlook and philosophy when it comes to the 'One Percent.' Notice that in a sea of naked bodies you can’t clearly make out a single man or woman; they just blend together into one blind androgynous mass? Almost as if Andrews were saying that they’re all the same; indistinguishable from one another and hopeless to achieve redemption. On occasion however, there are lucky individuals who can be saved not only from the elite of the world but most importantly from themselves and that is what's actually taking place here: Renato is saving her. Redemption not condemnation; that is the most persistent theme throughout the issue and it is summed up perfectly in one all-encompassing image.
Now of course at its core this is a classic tale of revenge-fantasy, dripping with excitement, action, blood, guts, gore, etc. on every page. It serves an almost Freudian desire to enact violence: we don't want to just see the wicked punished, we want to see them harmed for their wrongdoings. This makes us cheer on Renato despite the horrible acts and atrocities he commits to get the desired results. He's not only justified in our eyes but we see him as the hero, the dark avenger; we forgive his trespasses because we know he can and will do what we cannot or will not (sound like any other pointy-eared vigilantes you know?). But unlike a certain Gotham Chiroptera who fights crime by reacting to it, Renato Jones works by trying to anticipate it. His philosophy is you need to kill the hydra, not merely cut off one of its heads. Address the source not the symptom, for only then will any real or lasting change ever be possible.
I meant it when I said that this is the best release of the year, so far. It has depth, rich dialogue and takes the time to develop its characters beyond the scope of what typically constitutes a first issue. Andrews' world is both visually and emotionally dark, scattered with moments of genuine hope and human connection that persist in even in the most brutal times. The layout is fantastic, the tableau memory sequences are terrifying/breathtaking, and the story is impossibly enthralling. As excited as I am to uncover more about Renato and his past, I'm most looking forward to finding out just how 'super-fucked' the 'super-rich' really are!
[su_box title="Score: 4/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Renato Jones: The One % #1 Writer/Artist: Kaare Kyle Andrews Price: $3.99 Publisher: Image Comics Release Date: 5/4/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digita