Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: D.G. Jones
Publisher: Top Cow
Let’s see the hands of those of you familiar with the term “irreality”. It’s a phrase coined by Phillip K. Dick. the king god of screw with your perceptions science fiction. If you’ve seen Bladerunner or A Scanner Darkly you have an approximation of what he can do with words. Irreality is the creeping feeling that all you know of the world you exist in is only an illusion. It is, at best, badly made stage sets held up by rickety chicken wire. Nothing known is sacrosanct. “Reality is what you can get away with”, sayeth Robert Anton Wilson, good buddy to Dr. Timothy Leary. For years I have walked my consciousness down to that playground and pondered altered reality as a mind and soul exercise. It’s fun to do. Then irreality came home to my life to stay. This is my ham-handed way of explaining my sudden hiatus from writing this column.
Did you know it is possible to have a migraine headache bad enough that it consumes your memory? Pffft. My wife Angelique does. She awakes and is in a panic because she believes we are to visit her Mom passed away for five years now. The last four to five years of her memory are gone. Vanished. What is your world other than a collection of memories that root you in the world? What can undermine our belief in what is real than it suddenly shifting beneath you? You see how questions after questions align themselves until all becomes questionable? Facts can be fed in but cannot replace memory.
So this is my explanation then. It is also why I pulled Wanted from the pile and have read and reread it for the past few weeks. It too takes what we know and blows it up in really harsh and graphic ways. As we’ve spent the last month sifting through raw information to replace internal certainty. We have gone through journals, day planners and stashed mental lifelines like a jigsaw puzzle and befuddled a very good neurologist while doing so. I have drunk deep of this alternate reality crafted by Mark Millar and D.G. Jones. I have to. Comics always got me through rough times before and brother have I needed this now.
Wanted is a story taking place in one of the many realities available in the “cosmic bubble bath”. It began long ago in the freaked out mind of little Mark Millar while still young enough to believe that Superman might be real and wondered why bad things could happen in a world where he is our guardian. His older brother Bobby told him this: “Didn’t you hear? He disappeared during a big war with all the super villains…and they all disappeared during this enormous battle and they’ve never been seen again.” Irreality.
Wesley Gibson is another video game playing, office cubicle dwelling loser raised by a fearful and sensitive new age mommy to bleat his way happily through shopping excursions into happiness. He buys all the comics to escape and drinks all the Kool-Aid he can stand. He looks just like Marshall Mathers (Eminem) but with a Glenn Beck-ian quivering lip and spine. This latte swilling “Everyman” is chock full of tears of cowardice and self-disgust. His best friend screws his harpy girlfriend and his hostile black woman boss abuses him at work while the office peeps chortle at him. The boy is a mess.
In another city the best hit man in the world has his head splashed to the sky by a bullet from a rifle fired two cities away. A hot super villainess calling herself The Fox shows up at the diner Wesley frequents for his ritual meal and shoots to death everybody in the place and forces Wesley into her quarter mil fastity fast sports car. She tells him he is the long hidden son of the super killer who was super killed a couple of pages ago. She informs him The Syndicate, a conglomeration of super villains runs the world for fun and profit since 1986 (same year Watch Men came out eh?) but evil is business after all. Funny but it seems exactly like that in this world too. Hmmmm.
It takes great big stones to one up Alan Moore’s Watchmen but Millar has the brass clanking ones to do it with, Wanted explores a world where super villains tired of getting their respective asses kicked formed an army and put to death all the heroes and then used tremendous power to rewrite reality to harvest the world in just the way the smarter super villains always wanted to. This is the DC universe on acid with a mescaline chaser. We have Fuckwit, a retarded Superman and Shithead with the fecal matter of 666 of the world’s most evil people in him and my favorite Johnny Two-Dicks who lets the little head do the thinking for the big head. There’s Mister Rictus, an ex evangelical minister who saw nothing but void in a near-death experience and rages at the lack of God in horrible ways. “I don’t fuck goats Mr. Wesley. I make love to them.”
Jones’ artwork is stunning. This is one helluva good-looking book. A few years later when DC launched its Final Crisis story arc they availed themselves of Jones’ talent and dribbled clues throughout that Wanted served as a template for rebooting the DC universe. That’s just how good it is. It has influenced other creators in the industry who have read it much like Frank Miller did with The Dark Knight Returns also in 1986. Once the monster is out of the box it will not fit back in. As my wife tells me, it’s all the little things you take for granted that is new and unexpected and disconcerting. Yeah if you are a big fan of this medium, Wanted works that way too.
It’s hard not to lay down the whole story and wax rapturously on what a satisfying read it is. This is for us capes and tights freaks out there a perfect comic. Adam West and Burt Ward are murdered while crying like babies. Big guns are shown and used in mean ass ways. There are lines of dialogue in here that will slash across your brain’s tender areas and mark them like a Rottweiler with a bladder full of attitude. There’s even a flashback sequence where Jones goes all Gene Colan on us that leaves me breathless.
Yes, Wanted was made into a feature film but it is tinker toys compared to this book. Consider it another case of industry being their usual craven selves and fluffing it down so as to not blow the kiddies’ minds. It’s just their way of protecting themselves from the outraged umbrage of the culturally righteous. Fred Phelps would have dry humped an Elmer Gantry impressionist in apoplectic fury if but one of his spawn-lings had but caught a glimpse of this tale on a silver screen. Wanted? Oh Hell yes it is.
by Bill Hilburn