There are very few people (in my opinion) that don’t enjoy the hitman/assassin genre, and if you’re one of the few then I will say that even Ronald Reagan enjoyed a good H&A story or at least I assume as much. What’s been great about the genre in recent years is that creators have been challenged with creating stories and situations that are more and more believable. The fact is, we’re all globally connected and really how many high powered judges or FBI witnesses to you read about getting a silencer to the back of the head. It’s a romanticized action genre that always follows the same basic formula, but the key to its success is in the details. Those tidbits of realism that make the reader/viewer say, “That’s how it really is!”
Silence & Co opens to the assassination of a high powered judge that is presiding over the case of Vincent Maranzano, the leader of the Maranzano crime family. We see our skillful hitman exchange the barrel of his gun and his shoes, which are the two things that will connect him to the scene. Later at the crime scene we find Agent Fowler the lead on the case as he deals with a rookie cop that comes to him with incomplete info thinking that it will be helpful. Around this time another Federal agent comes on scene and asks Fowler to catch him up on everything. His name is Maddox Conran and he’s basically become Fowler’s boss just with his arrival. Fowler catches him and subsequently the reader up on the entire case. He discusses the infrastructure of the Maranzano family including who Fowler likes for the hitman Alex Maranzano. This is the perfect scene because it realistically gives the reader all of the details on Alex.
Conran gives Fowler the okay to take Alex in and the next thing we see is an FBI raid on his apartment. Alex sits as cool as a cucumber drinking some whiskey or whatever hitmen drink as they begin tearing about his things and easily find a gun in his bookcase. Of course we as the reader know this is a bum lead, but it’s enough for the FBI to take him in. We soon learn about the shoes and the barrel of the gun which means that Alex is cut loose. He’s sent on a direct trip to the Maranzano compound which is a big ass house on a Cliffside. As he arrives he walks the reader through all of the security that the house has and his relationship with his uncle and father. His Uncle Saul is there to greet him and also to send him away.
A week later in Morocco, we find Alex by the pool when a gruff looking man comes up to him holding a gun on him. He sets what we recognize as Alex’s trade mark gun down on the table and hands him a business card. The man’s name is Miguel and he tells Alex that Saul said he would understand. Alex marches like a bull back to his hotel room to talk to Saul about the dipshit that just handed him a gun in a public setting. Saul gives Alex a very soft explanation of what Silence & Co. is and assures him that if they’re approaching him that he’s reached the big time like him. Alex reluctantly takes the job with Miguel, but he quickly finds out that there is a lot more to Silence & Co. than meets the eye.
I could go on and on about this story because I really feel as if I’m just barely scratching the surface. The benefit of a graphic novel for a creator is that they story doesn’t need to have to explain the entire plot on the first few pages. You can literally string the reader along until the final arc and hit them all at once or you can sprinkle in surprises along the way like this book does.
Alex’s narration is the driving force behind the story. We’re privy to his thoughts and it makes him an interesting character. He doesn’t have the usual motivations for being a hitman and his logic behind doing it is also quite different. That and Alex has daddy issues and idolizes the man he credits raising him Saul, who was also a hitman. Benshemesh weaves together an interesting story and a hitman concept that has one of the coolest elements you’ll ever read. At its core it still follows the formula of any other hitman story: Show the lead as a bad ass killer, introduce character that changes them, someone close to the lead betrays them and then the final showdown. All of that is there for sure, but it’s those details and extra nuances that Benshemesh has added that make the story interesting to read.
A story can be made or broken by the art and decisions on whether or not it should be in black and white or color also plays a huge role in the direction of the book. This graphic novel is in all black and white and that’s a huge plus for it. I’m am terribly bias towards all black and white art because I enjoy it so much, but even still I can put that aside and look at this with a critical eye. Randall does an impeccable job with the character design which is very important in a story with so many main and supporting characters. There is a key story element that in the wrong artist’s hands would be completely missed by the reader if handled wrong. There’s a ton of gun play and stunning kills in the story and Randall makes each of them exciting and thrilling. Thankfully the art is as strong as it is because it supports the story immensely.
If you can’t tell, I enjoy the H&A genre. Ever since I watched Leon the Professional as a kid when I was definitely not old enough to be watching it (thanks Papa!), I have had an obsession of sorts for it. Since then I’ve enjoyed seeing what creators and writers can bring to the genre that is new and fresh and I’m constantly surprised by what they achieve. I enjoyed this book so much that I will likely read it again after marathoning through several films.
Writer/Creator: Gur Benshemesh
Artist: Ron Randall
Release Date: May, 2013