Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Lisandro Estherren
Release Date: 6th January, 2016
I’ve been watching out for The Last Contract ever since our very own Ceej spoke to the creators about it. You can read that interview HERE. A lot of the buzz about this story rides on the success of John Wick, something that is both a compliment (it’s a great film), and a bit of an injustice. Certainly there are some similarities, both are about a hitman forced to come out of retirement for one last job; but there is so much more to The Last Contract than a story that rides the coat-tails of the movie it finds itself being referenced to.
Ed Brisson (BATMAN & ROBIN ETERNAL, SHELTERED) has crafted quite a unique and interesting story here. The Man (as he’s known) is a retired killer, and our introduction to him highlights the difficulty of age and a failing memory – a theme that I think will be a constant through the series. Rather than make that tragic, it’s actually a source of humour in the story. Not in a depreciating manner, but rather with a ‘them’s the breaks,’ type of attitude. It’s this particular element to the writing that gives the story that ‘something’ a bit special. This treatment isn’t reserved for The Man only, although kidnapping a crime boss in your pyjama shirt because you forgot to change is undoubtedly funny. What’s just as funny is said kidnapped boss asking if he can sit at gunpoint rather than kneel as his legs are killing him due to old age! Don’t mistake my enthusiasm for the humour as the be all and end all here though, it’s just symptomatic of the character’s predicament and works really, really well.
The story itself is delightfully odd in that our main protagonist is a retired octogenarian hitman who is pulled back into the works he left years ago because of something he knows or has done. The story opens; it presents The Man as an everyday pensioner, making conversation in the diner and then rushing home to walk his dog. Things quickly take a turn as a biker breaks into his home to kill him, only to find himself at the mercy of the old man. This old dog still knows his tricks, even if things aren’t working as well as they used to. This is even more apparent when he complains the biker talked too fast under pressure – in his day the class of gangster was a lot tougher. Of course, this is after he’s sliced the bikers throat. This event thrusts us straight into the main story as The Man now needs to track down who has put the hit on him and why. This route is not going to be easy as The Man isn’t as strong or agile of mind as he once was – and this is where the interest lies. John Wick just lay waste to everything, and everyone. The Man doesn’t have that luxury, or rather that means.
Along with an incredibly strong script the artwork of Lisandro Estherren (TALL TALES FROM THE BADLANDS) also delivers. The line work is messy and organic and this style really emphasises the feeling of age on several characters’ faces. He also uses a lot of block ink work to emphasise the darkness in the story, and it’s utilised in a clever way to emphasise elements like guns and The Man’s dog. I especially like the panel where he grips the neck of the biker in his house, The Man’s hand in full colour and the bikers face practically blacked out showing a silhouette of a jawline with some unshaven whiskers and such. It’s these l little details that I really enjoy.
Complimenting this great ink work Estherren uses monochromatic colour washes to create mood in the panels, mostly in blues and purples, except in moments of violence where reds and pinks are used. This combination of colour and inks really gives a relevant dynamic to the mood and feel of the issue. It works, and it’s as simple as that.
This is a great introduction to the story of The Man, and looks to be a high-crime roller-coaster of a ride with a quite brilliant take on the main character. While the story itself is quite dark and violent the situation and physical/mental wellbeing of our protagonist gives opportunity for dark and funny humour. This funny dialogue works really well as a counterpoint to the suspicion and violence the story entails. We don’t know why The Man is on someone’s hit list, we don’t even know if The Man will remember why he’s on someone’s kill list, but it’s going to be great fun finding out.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.