Imagine a world where instead of retiring and getting married John Wick embraced the criminal lifestyle. Where he put his talents to work building a criminal empire of his own. Got it? Now imagine that he’s such a jerk that nobody wants to work with and most of his associates want him dead. That’s the basic starting premise of the hilarious new series Assassin Nation #1 from publisher Image Comics, writer Kyle Starks, artist Erica Henderson, and letterer Deron Bennett.
When the former “World’s Greatest Assassin” Mr. Rankin loses most of his security detail in a failed assassination attempt, he has a brilliant idea. That the best way to prevent his own murder is to hire the top 20 best assassins in the world to do the work for him. From there we are treated to a veritable cavalcade of eclectic assassins with names like Smoke, Desert Regal, and F**k Tarkington. Yes, that’s his real name. Each of these people is offered a hefty sum of cash to serve as Rankin’s bodyguard. But not everyone is what they seem and when you work with assassins a little double-crossing is always just around the corner.
Kyle Stark’s script is great. He manages to feature each of the characters and portray the tongue-in-cheek nature of the story in a way that doesn’t feel cluttered or excessive. The dialogue is clever, witty, and at times even laugh-out-loud funny. There are moments when it can feel a little aimless as the plot works to move forward, but those lapses are always brief and followed up with a worthwhile joke. His ability to give each of the twenty assassins their own distinct feel and personality while also keeping the story moving is impressive.
On the visual side, Erica Henderson’s artwork is punchy, fun, and every bit as stylish as what we came to expect from her during her tenure on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. You can feel the action as she draws it and each panel feels alive thanks to her work. I especially appreciated the unique sound effects and graphics that she drew during the particularly violent sections. Similarly, Deron Bennett’s lettering is tight, clean, and perfectly serves to emphasize the action on the panels. These folks know what they’re doing and each of them is able to do it very well.
Overall Assassin Nation a remarkably fun and funny comic. Stark does a great job of portraying a bizarre funhouse mirror version of how action movie assassins are often shown. This effort is enhanced by Henderson and Bennett’s excellent work. If you’re a fan of cheesy action movies then this should be on your pull list going forward.
Assassin Nation #1 will be available in comic stores everywhere March 13, 2019.