Review by Frank Plowright
The original Road to Perdition was a sleeper hit, possibly appreciated more on publication by those less familiar with graphic novels than the comic buying public. It certainly adapted well to cinema screens, and around the same time creator Max Allan Collins wrote three further short graphic novels featuring Michael O’Sullivan, the 1930s hitman known as the Angel of Death. ‘Oasis’, ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Detour’, initially released individually under the title On the Road to Perdition, are now combined as Road to Perdition 2.
They’re continuity implants. As O’Sullivan and his son crisscrossed the Tri-State area in the original graphic novel there were gaps in the narrative, enabling Collins to set new exploits in the same timeframe. Having by this time seen the film before release, or certainly the shooting script, for ‘Oasis’, Collins adapts his own material to the changes made for the movie. It’s speculated, for instance, that Connor Looney’s behaviour in the original book stemmed from a jealousy of the trust his gang leading father placed in O’Sullivan. We also have the older and younger O’Sullivans taking refuge on a farm and bounty hunters chasing them, although the latter pair feature throughout the book, not just the opening chapter. Collins twists elements from the film, while also supplying a familiarity to those picking the book up after having seen it.
Similarities between movie and graphic novel dissipate, and by ‘Sanctuary’ Collins is back to supplying entirely his own plots, and the book is better for it. Bounty hunters Jack Fallon and Jack Grizzard feature throughout, so Collins spends time to characterise them well, delving into a past incident shared with O’Sullivan and supplying them with additional problems. Collins also revels in adding historical detail. Anyone reading The Road to Perdition will be provided with the starting points for learning a lot about the period, and in painless fashion.
Original artist Richard Piers Rayner is absent, but instead we have two perennially under-rated artists who’re both superb. There’s probably nothing José Luis García-López or Steve Lieber can’t draw well. Both have a naturalistic style, both fill their backgrounds with convincing period detail, and both can tell the hell out of a story.
This collection improves as it continues, and by the time we reach ‘Detour’ the quality level matches the original book, a trick Collins pulls off despite readers of that book experiencing diminished suspense as they’re already aware one element we’re teased with won’t occur. The plot is more inventive, and includes some nice character touches.
Although overall this isn’t quite the punch to the gut of the first book, as gangster era crime graphic novels go neither does it disappoint. As the original three pocket graphic novels are available so cheaply, interested readers may want to investigate those instead.