Review by Roy Boyd
Renato Jones, Season 1: The One% is the brainchild of Kaare Kyle Andrews, who, as the cover is keen to point out, is more than just writer, artist and colourist, he’s also creator and owner, and probably tea-boy too.
This is important, as his book is a vicious attack against the eponymous one per cent that owns almost everything. Rather than one per cent, he supplies a figure of around 60 people owning half of the world’s money and resources. This goes some way to explaining the anger and disaffection with the elite that’s responsible for civil disobedience all over the world and Andrews mines that seam of anger for all it’s worth.
In a world where everyone is owned by, or works for, one of the crooked mega-rich, it requires the services of a Freelancer to sort things out. Because they work for themselves, see? One could argue that they just work for someone else on a temporary basis, but this aspect of the character doesn’t bear close scrutiny. It’s a cool name, and it’s surprising that no one has used it before now. In a nutshell, the Freelancer – think a very angry Batman with big guns and lots of stabbing – sets out to redress the balance, waging a war against the corrupt rich. The Freelancer’s methods range from the merely misanthropic to just bloody sadistic.
His cast of uber-rich villains includes one who’s clearly based on Donald Trump, a man so venal and crass that’s it’s genuinely difficult for anyone to caricature him. As if it’s not enough that the baddies are greedy bastards who put profit before human life, Andrews makes them all psychopathic serial killer/cannibal types. However, it’s hard to justify widespread bloody mayhem when you’re dealing with people whose offences in the real world are often much less graphic and obvious. It might be fun to see a corrupt banker or commodities trader getting shot in the face, at least in a comic, but it’s hard to justify from a plot point of view.
Sometimes Andrews’ reach exceeds his grasp as a writer. “Decimating wages”, for example. Is that even possible? Strictly speaking, it means killing one in ten, so probably not, but mostly he manages to maintain the tone he’s after, staying just the right side of the line between petulant and ill-informed teenager and people’s bloody avenger.
It almost goes without saying that Renato Jones owes a great deal to Frank Miller. It’s as if someone took his two seminal Batman books – Year One and The Dark Knight Returns – and his Sin City series, added a dash of righteous anger (and perhaps a sprinkling of V for Vendetta) and turbo-charged the whole thing for a modern readership. The end result is violent, unsettling and interesting enough to encourage the reader to pick up the second book, Freelancer, to find out how this first character arc and extended origin story plays out.