Totally Killer

The Killer Volume 1 by Matz and Luc Jacamon. Archaia, 2009. 9781932386448. 128pp.

The Killer Volume 2 by Matz and Luc Jacamon. Archaia, 2009. 9781932386561.  176pp.

Gene: The Killer Volumes 1 and 2, my pic for our book club!
Sarah: Do you want my first reaction?
G: Yes!
S: I went to an exhibit on Martin Scorcesse and there was a little thing in there about a film he directed for Roger Corman. (Many great directors directed a film for Corman because he would hire you before you were well known.) And apparently Corman said “You can rewrite the script however you want as long as there’s nudity every 15 minutes.” So I felt like this was one of those movies.
G: Ow!
S: There was murder, there was darkness, and there was nudity every 15 minutes.
G: Well it’s about a killer for hire, he’s French.
S: The whole book is so French! They translated the words in the word balloons but not the sound effects.
G: The book was originally published in French. It’s very hard to translate sound effects because they’re part of the image — changing them would require the art to be redrawn. It’s easier to change the letters in the balloons because they’re isolated. That’s why in manga you usually see sound effects in Japanese.
S: Good to know!
G: I love the coloring of these graphic novels so much. It’s subtle and amazing. It’s from the mid 1990s so I’m not sure whether it was done digitally, but probably not.
The story starts with the killer waiting to shoot a doctor from an apartment where he’s holed up. The guy doesn’t show up, doesn’t show up, doesn’t show up, so the killer reminisces about other jobs he’s done. He thinks about a job he had three months earlier, another rich guy who he killed next to his swimming pool. There’s a picture of the guy sitting next to the pool with his hand on a drink and you don’t realize until you flip the page that the guy is dead already. Loved that.

Gene: The killer’s retreat is a place in Venezuela, a little town where he has a very pretty girlfriend (who he has sex with, according to you, about every 15 minutes). But he’s very much alone. He talks about his freedom, though it’s obvious he doesn’t have much. He’s very stuck to the job.
Here’s another job when he was killing a guy who ran away from his wife and took his kids. This is where I fell in love with the series. (The 5th volume came out recently.) This is in volume one on about page 20. He finds the guy in the Caribbean. Follows him. Waits until he goes scuba diving alone (which you should never do for any reason). And here’s the sequence where he kills the guy underwater. I love it so much because of the shape of the panels. Wide panels give a sense of how open it feels under the sea. Narrow panels give a sense of going down down down. And the colors are the best of the whole series, purpley blue with lots of blacks. And the moment where the victim comes up to gasp for air but is pulled down. Wow.
S: And the way he kills him, he does it so people assume it’s an accident. There are a lot of situations where no one knows how great of a killer he is because no one knows the dead person was murdered.
G: Right. And he doesn’t seem to care. Though the first guy he killed, he did that with a baseball bat.
S: Accidentally. He was just supposed to rough him up.
G: And then, skipping ahead, there’s the inevitable double cross in the book.
S: I was really interested in the parts where he seems to lose touch with reality and the images just fracture. Things don’t line up anymore.
G: That is where he’s been waiting for that doctor for too long. And it starts to get to him. It’s a moment I didn’t remember, which doesn’t resonate throughout the other volumes. He’s too reflective, too philosophical. (Apparently you should never be French, alone, smoking in an apartment with no books or TV — that’s my takeaway.) Then he does this cold blooded thing when the doctor shows up. So brutal. And he’s pursued by a French cop when he retreats back to Venezuela.
The second volume picks up after the double cross, after he’s approached by some guys who know too much about him.
S: Who tell him he’s in their debt.
G: He killed someone and it affected them. And now he has to work for them. There’s a nice moment where he takes a guy along who thinks he’s going to be an amazing hitman.
S: I did like that guy. He thinks he’s a tough guy but has no idea what it takes to kill someone.
G: And then there’s some more nudity.
S: There is a lot.
G: I want you to know that I’m reading this for the text.
S: Exactly.
G: In volume two his girlfriend comes into focus a bit.
S: She seems like the ideal action movie girlfriend because there’s nothing there. Eventually she gets a bit of character. The good thing about her is she’s hot and she doesn’t ask questions.
G: But you find out she’s not dumb. And she really helps out in the later volumes, when they’re being hunted and they retreat to the small jungle village she’s from. Her people help keep them safe.
S: I wish there was more of the killer’s motivations in the book, other than that he’s good at it.
G: To me it seems to be a product of his view of the world, that it’s a bad place where people do bad things to each other and so why not him? He gets paid for it. The targets are meaningless. Don’t pretend they’d be meaningful. He’s a predator. This is his position in the ecosystem.

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