Retro review: Mark Millar’s “Wanted”

With the new action flick starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman “Wanted” opening today, I thought it would be good to take another look at Mark Millar’s mini siries. Most people won’t be aware that the movie is based on a 2004 six issue limited series published by Top Cow  and written by Millar which at the time I thought was an excellent, albeit very violent read.

Here’s the premise as described at the conclusion of the 2006 collected trade:

The bad guys won. Led by Professor Solomon Seltzer, ALL the supervillains finally teamed up and destroyed all the superheroes in a cataclysmic battle back in 1986.

But it wasn’t enough just to kill them- they had to destroy them MORE completely. Reality was folded and unfolded by the Fraternity’s cognoscenti, seven-dimensional imps, and alien super-computers. All vestiges that the heroes had ever existed were destroyed. We were left with a world where humanity, at best, has vague, Alzheimer’s-esque memories of superheroes. That, and the comic book.s But who reads comic books anymore?

Now that’s a great premise! Millar just takes off from this and creates some of the most memorable characters I have read in a comic series with the most inventive and repulsive of which being shit-head, the collected feces of the 666 most evil beings ever to walk the earth taking on sentience. Shit-head was a little bit of Hitler, a touch of Ed Gein, half a pound of Jeffrey Dahmer.

In fact, out of the entire dossier of Wanted’s intriguing cast, Hollywood only retains cubicle-dwelling Wesley Gibson and his mentor in crime: The Fox (Presumably played by Jolie in the film version.)  In the story, Gibson’s life changes dramatically when he discovers he is the son of “The Killer,” the most ruthless of an undeground fraternity of supervillains who have secretly been running the world since 1986.

The superhero and supervillian elements of Millar’s source material have been completely diluted by Hollywood and now it’s just a movie about a guy who joins a secret fraternity of killers heavily influenced by the Matrix and similar action films. I’m only mildly intrigued by the movie version. Millar says it’s closer to the vision he wanted to write all along but I suspect that’s just a lot of lip service. Do yourself a favor, if you like gritty graphic novels and dig apocalyptic stories subverting traditional superhero fare, while concurrently paying homage to the conventions of the medium, you can hardly do better than Millar and JG Jones’ “Wanted.”  

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