Review by Karl Verhoven
Originally serialised in 2003, in 2008 Wanted was the first Mark Millar project to hit the cinema screens. A fast-paced action thriller with a good performance from James McAvoy, it still scores highly on Rotten Tomatoes. The graphic novel is even better.
This is because for the movie the villains were downgraded. With the collaboration of J.G. Jones there was the budget for the graphic novel comic to have the villains as super-villains, and that just ramps up the entire affair.
Both comic and film begin in roughly the same place, with an assassination and the introduction of Wesley Gibson, nondescript and cowardly: “This is the office where I work as an assistant to the associate editor on Hyperthyroidism Today, the third-biggest auto-immune periodical on the Eastern seaboard”. Remorselessly put-upon, Wesley’s wake-up call arrives in the form of the Fox, deadly super-villain, who reveals the father who deserted him when a baby is the recently assassinated Killer, the world’s premier contract hitman. That’s the first in series of eye-popping revelations about his heritage, his future and the way the wider world operates. The hook is that Wesley will inherit his father’s multi-million dollar estate, but only if he can convince his father’s super-villain colleagues that he has the balls to become one of them.
How could anyone not be reeled in by that plot device? The opening chapter alone introduces several righteous targets, and Millar explains how the villains can operate in society with impunity and no fear of justice. It’s all delivered with panache by Jones. His art is busy, but also has a harmonious sense of classic storytelling, as if he’s absorbed every Marvel and DC comic from the days when art editors offered advice and is funnelling those techniques.
The type of person likely to blanche at potty mouths and senseless violence should stay well away, as Wanted is excessively violent and gratuitously unpleasant, deliberately very offensive from start to finish in a biting the hand that feeds fashion. Innocents die, the slightly wayward are judged and condemned, and your youth is trampled in the dirt as Millar spurts out every resentment he’s stored since his early childhood. It’s puerile, fantastic and an orgasmic catharsis for writer and reader.
Think too much about the plot and it collapses like a twiglet chair, especially the aspect of everything occurring below the public radar, but accept it for the jolt of cinematic adrenaline that it is, and Wanted delivers in spades.