Ending one of those special months where publishers put out lots of annuals to fill that fifth week were books from Injustice 2, Aquaman and Super Sons, even a Star Trek show exclusive to a CBS service no one wants to pay for came to comics. Most important of all, the legacy of the raddest character of the 21st century comes to the best medium in Dynamite’s John Wick comic book.
JOHN WICK #1
Story: Greg Pak
Art: Giovanni Valletta
Colors: David Curiel
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Published by: Dynamite
Ask anyone to name their favorite action movie of the modern era and at least half would say, “John Wick”. Over two high-octane and blood splattering movies, the character portrayed by Keanu Reeves has become synonymous with the word violence. Now, John Wick is a comic book!
Set in the same world as the films, John Wick #1 explores the untold origin of the character. Written by seasoned comic scribe, Grek Pak, the story introduces readers to a fresh out of prison Wick in the scorching heat of El Paseo Texas. Issue one sets up more mystery than the straightforward revenge-driven plot of the films. From the start, it’s hard to tell whether our hero intentionally comes across a group of would-be hitmen or simply looking for a good slice of pie. Even if the two things aren’t mutually exclusive, Greg Pak layers this script with flashbacks giving insight into the teen troublemaker the character was and how his path had no chance of going any other way. As we pick up Wick about to make an impromptu rescue of another integral character to the films, Charon. You might remember him as the keeper of The Continental, a hotel where assassins can relax and unwind as its laws state no violence on its premises is permitted.
Comics is indeed squeezing more juice out of this fruit than the real estate of a 90min film allowed for. Pak sets up the beginnings of a lengthy history between Wick and Charon, something only mentioned in both films. It shows how two-sided this book is. On the one hand, diehard fans of the John Wick films will undoubtedly have fun making connections between the comics material and scenes from the films. Purely on its surface, Pak, writes a story where every bullet and broken bone has an earned purpose in the narrative about a seemingly average dude that happens to be a magnet for trouble. Even if you’ve never seen a John Wick flick, everything is easy to accept and enjoy at face value that it could just get you to go and watch the movies.
Pak’s words only tell half the story. John Wick is a world that relies on the visual, that puts more pressure on an artist to capture the almost poetic violence the character is known for. Artist, Giovanni Valletta does a serviceable job rendering Keanu. It’s probably best illustrated in the opening chapter’s major action sequence. As John Wick smashes through two windows to stop a group of killers from taking out Charon with nothing more for protection than a couch cushion you’ll notice the Wick touches. One bullet to a bad guy’s limb then one in the head, shows this team has done its homework regarding the source material. The only real problem I have with the art is the same I had with Mortal Kombat X, there are obviously some limitations in mediums that take millions of dollars to create. Comics is a medium with no-limits, the art in John Wick needs to take advantage of that.
One of thing about the book that stands out is the color work of David Curiel. Every important frame of the films has a distinct blue/violet tint to it. It signatures the world of these characters and it’s a touch used here to color El Paseo in a way I doubt anyone has ever before.
Outside of Red Sonja, Dynamite hasn’t had many wins in 2017. There is a lot to be cautious about when comics takes on a franchise not known for deep story, but Greg Pak and the creative team on the book managed to start something special here whether you’re a fan of John Wick or have never heard of it.
The Matrix, Bill and Ted, now John Wick. Has any actor had more of their movies turned into comic books than Keanu?
[WON!] John Wick #1 is a fun and surprisingly deep start to one of the best comics based on a movie in recent memory.
Here’s a handy list of the rest of this week’s #1’s:
- AQUAMAN ANNUAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- BATMAN CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 (DC COMICS)
- INJUSTICE 2 ANNUAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- SUPER SONS ANNUAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- MYSTIK U #1 (DC COMICS)
- GREEN ARROW ANNUAL #1 (DC COMICS)
- NEW TALENT SHOWCASE 2017 #1 (DC COMICS)
- POWERPUFF GIRLS BUREAU OF BAD #1 (IDW)
- STAR TREK DISCOVERY #1 (IDW)
- SWORD OF AGES #1 (IDW)
- CHASING HITLER #1 (RED 5 COMICS)
- JIM HENSON LABYRINTH 2017 SPECIAL #1 (BOOM! Studios)
- MARKIPLIER #1 (RED GIANT)
- QUARRYS WAR #1 (TITAN COMICS)
- REACTOR #1 (VAULT COMICS)