Sunday 4 March 2018

Triggerman by Matz, Hill and Jef

Triggerman, like Peepland, is another entry in the outstanding new Hard Case Crime series of graphic novels. It's drawn by Jef and co-written by Matz and Walter Hill.

Walter Hill is a highly regarded director and screenwriter. As a writer he had a hand in creating the Alien franchise, but he is better known for his work on Westerns (Deadwood) and particularly crime dramas (48 Hrs.).

In 2012 he directed a thriller set in New Orleans entitled Bullet to the Head. The movie wasn't particularly memorable, but it was based on a French graphic novel (Du plomb dans la tĂȘte). 

And on the set of the film Walter Hill met Matz (a pseudonym for Alexis Nolent) who had written Du plomb dans la tĂȘte.

Hill recalls that Matz "asked if I had any scripts or stories that could transfer to comic book form. I told him I had about thirty of them."

And Triggerman is the result. Set in America in the 1930s, it is a vivid, violent and compelling tale of Depression era crime. A classic story of Prohibition and gangsters, it focuses on a gunman called Roy Nash.

Nash is a hardened criminal and a hired killer — a standard character from film noir and pulp fiction. 

What makes him distinctive is that he is on a quest — for a woman from his past. He is motivated not by money or the thirst for revenge, but by love.

This a simple and strikingly effective plot device, but I don't recall it ever having been used before. Hill himself says, "The story is driven by Roy's nostalgia for a lost love. I thought that was an interesting departure point for a gangster character and story."

It certainly is, and thanks to the exemplary art by Jef (aka Jean-Francois Martinez, aka Nino), Triggerman comes powerfully to life. Jef's illustrations are gritty, dynamic and strangely elegant. 

In particular I was knocked out by the magnificent shots of the launch heading out to the gambling ship. This sequence is all the more effective for being entirely wordless. Indeed, the use of silent images is one of the great and distinctive strengths of Triggerman.

Jef contributes to the sense of period which heightens the pleasure of this tight, terse action thriller which is populated by intriguing characters. 

(There's one called Eddie Marz, which must be a cheeky homage to Chandler's The Big Sleep, which features a crook called Eddie Mars, who runs a beach side gambling house.)

Triggerman was pure pleasure for me. Dark, terse, grim and relentless. But also beautifully drawn and tremendously evocative.

As a comic book writer myself, though, I have to add that during the grave robbing sequence on Page 99, Panel 5, I think the word balloon is wrongly positioned. I think it should be coming from Roy, who is out of shot.

I really like these Hard Case graphic novels. I can't get enough of them. More, please.

(Image credits: Once again thanks to Will O'Mullane at Titan for providing all the art.)

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