06 November, 2016

On the Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

1. It’s sometimes interesting to see where an author takes their tale in a sequel. These three parts form one story, and are published together, so I’ll use one set of notes for them. This story slides into the last comic between the pages, conceptualized as interludes in the events of the prior book. It is a three-part series, or mini-series—Oasis, Sanctuary, and Detour—with each part about ninety pages long. It deals with a situation that can fit in the timeline of the prior book in multiple places. And that’s kind of cool, that there’s this standalone story within the context of the earlier story, that can kind of slot in anywhere. It’s as if George Martin wrote a number of novels in his Song of Ice and Fire series, each from one character’s point of view, that all fit together like gears, rather than the already interlaced novels ruled by chronology that he has written. To be clear, I like the tactic Martin uses, but I also like this tactic too. Though this tactic could feel like a bit of an afterthought.

2. Here, it appears that Collins and his artists use these sequels trying to humanize Michael, trying to fix my main problem with the last book. But my main problem with it is the same: the characters don’t justify this fan service. Sometimes I read a book and the characters are so fascinating I don’t want it to end, or I want to see more stories about those people. This was not the case with Road to Perdition.
—Michael gets put into three situations that attempt to cause a conflict in his inflexible nature. In Oasis they take a break at a farm belonging to his dead wife’s best friend—but this of course endangers them. In Sanctuary, he lights candles for the men he killed in Oasis, then gets ambushed by the two Jacks while there, then works with the two Jacks against their ambushers—his honor and his need to focus on protecting himself and his son butting against each other. In Detour he tries to rescue his kidnapped friend from Oasis, but is forced to choose between killing Looney’s son and rescuing the damsel in distress.
—These three situations try to wrinkle Michael’s character, but he still doesn’t change. They only illuminate the same boring character that was there before. Despite feeling like it’s trying to branch out, it still relies on violence to move the plot—which is still a good plot—and doesn’t allow Michael to change.

3. The artists are José Luis García-López, Josef Rubinstein, and Steve Lieber. Collectively, they take the varied but detailed work from the last book and simplify it with less line-work. It is more important line-work: because there is less of it, what is there has to say more. But it comes off looking more typical, more like everything else we see. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just another indicator that we’re dealing with a run-of-the-mill comic book. A pulp fiction comic, and not a great one. It’s always awkward when a comic switches artists, but this switch is less awkward than others.

4. The worst thing about these are that each of the three parts feature a lengthy recap of what came before. I understand a few panels of recap might be felt necessary by the publisher, but he has way too much recap going on. He sets up the story for each chapter, then pauses to recap the earlier book before continuing with the new story. This pulls me out of the new narrative before it even gets going.

5. In all, this is where I am done with these books. I understand from Wikipedia that there are more books to read, dealing with Michael Jr. But I’m just uninterested and even reading these three was a bit of a slog. They’re alright pulp fiction and I know some people who would love this book, but it’s simply not for me. I want characters who change and feel like people, not flat, unchanging, cold killers whose killing never has any affect on them or their child, who witnesses all this.

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