Review by Frank Plowright
John Burns has been one of Britain’s greatest comic artists since the early 1970s, although his career stretches back a decade before that. Despite this, he’s rarely worked outside the UK, and his global reputation isn’t as high as it ought to be. He’s the complete master, a man who can illustrate anything convincingly and dynamically, whether he’s using pen and ink, or as here, painting. This is 88 pages of prime John Burns art, with Burns producing the action/adventure material he enjoys the best.
Writer Robbie Morrison has constructed his story around Burns’ likes and strengths. The Bendatti is an organisation of very capable individuals who take on cases of vengeance on behalf of others, as long as it’s in the service of the greater good. They recruit from those who contact them, and as they’re largely dealing with people beyond the reach of the law, their method of revenge is extended and precise, the vendetta the title promises. Those targeted know someone’s out to get them, but don’t know how or why as a series of incidents over a prolonged period restricts their ability to operate.
The first, and longest, tale here is of a Russian arms dealer with fingers in all sorts of other pies besides. Morrison throws us into the middle of the tale, effectively unwinds the prelude, then follows that with a British gangster and an Italian Mafia clan being dealt with. Along the way he supplies the backgrounds to the three main cast members, but their personalities remain largely blank, a quip here and a pose there moving the plot forward. He’s far better at characterising the targets as specimens more than deserving their eventual fates.
‘See Naples and Die’, the closer, is the best of the three stories by virtue of the greater surprise elements, but pick too much and the Bendatti Vendetta collapses into a lapse of logic. Instead skim through in the spirit of an action movie and it’s thrilling stuff, well plotted and superbly illustrated.