Writer Max Allan Collins
Artist Richard Piers Rayner
PressParadox Press is one of the many series launched by DC Comics
at the end of the 1990s, having some special features with regard
to both size and content: it includes a number of substantial pocket
size black and white books of 300 pages. The size is definitely unusual
for the US comic book market, traditionally in colour. With regard
to its content, Paradox may be regarded as a sort of "more realistic"
appendix to the Vertigo series. Its stories target adult readers,
who are more interested in "noir" style stories with tragic
characters who live in a big city reality.
Such is the case of "Road to Perdition", a story by thriller
writer Max Allan Collins with drawings by Richard Piers Rayner. Unfortunately,
the pun of "Perdition", which is also the name of the town
that the two characters must reach in order to save themselves from
the bad guys, is lost in the Italian translation "La strada della
Perdizione". The story takes place in the 1930s, during the prohibition.
Michael OSullivan Jr. is a typical young kid who lives in Rock
Island, in an area of town which is not rich but at the same time
decent enough to live in. He lives with his mother, his father Michael
Sr. and his brother Peter. Michaels life is peaceful until the
day he finds out that his father is a professional killer who works
for a gangster called John Looney. The kid finds out the secret in
a most dramatic way, as he sees his father during one of his "executions"
carried out in his cold professional way. Nothing can be the same
as it was before. Not only is the relationship between brother and
son going to change, but also the duo is forced to leave. Looney,
in fact, does not believe that the kid will be able to keep the secret
and therefore orders that the OSullivan family be killed. They
may be able to rescue themselves in Perdition, a town where Michaels
uncles live. Michaels uncles are keen on having the kid stay
with them. Unfortunately, Looneys bad guys do not give up and
Perdition, which is so close, seems to get harder and harder to reach.
The OSullivans escape turns into a long and bloody trail,
which leads them to an inevitable showdown.
With "Road to Perdition" Collins merges the "noir"
style features with those of a "story on the move" and the
result is surely very good. The dialogues are very brusque, with genuine
characters and a realistic background (at some stage Al Capone and
Eliot Ness, the policeman who pursued Capone are also introduced).
The story has an unpredictable end, which is not bad at all. Its
a really good story and its such a shame that its pictures are
drawn by Ryners, the "killer" of Hellblazer by Jamie Delano
of the early 1990s. Rayner is one of the many artists, who copy photographs
to draw their pictures, which is not wrong if their work were re-adapted
to the comic story. Unfortunately, this is not the case and at times
the photos, which have been used as a model, can be very easily recognised
(like the one taken from "Jaws", which has hardly anything
to do with a story which takes place in the 1930s). However, Rayners
art in "Road to Perdition" unlikely in the one of
Hellblazer has a very heavy line and is more functional rather
than beautiful, which is a gap that DC Comics doesnt want to
fill. For a bizarre tradition, which dates back to Vertigos
earlier series (such as Sandman and Hellblazer), the publishing company
has continued to pick not very talented artists to draw excellent
stories. This is a shame. However, "Road to Perdition" is
well worth buying as it stands out as one of the best titles of the
Paradox series. The reader will be able to compare it with the movie
adaptation in which, if it goes to plan, will star Tom Hanks (interpreting
OSullivan) under the direction of Sam Mendes, already famous
for American Beauty.