Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Booknote: Road to Perdition

Title: Road to Perdition
Writer: Max Allan Collins; Artist: Richard Pyers Rayner
Publication Information: New York: Pocket Books, 1998
ISBN: 0-7434-42-24-5
302 pgs.
Genre: Graphic Novels
Subgenre: Fiction, crime fiction

Note on the edition: This is the paperback edition with the movie poster on the cover. It includes a new introduction written in 2002.

This is the graphic novel that was the basis for the movie starring Tom Hanks in the role of the mob enforcer. In the story, Michael O'Sullivan is known as the Angel of Death. He is an enforcer for Mr. Looney (in the film, the name is changed to Rooney; the senior Rooney is played by Paul Newman in the film. According to the introduction, they thought that Looney sounded, well, too looney for a film character), an Irish mobster allied with Capone. O'Sullivan is also a family man, and his children are unaware of what he does for a living. When O'Sullivan is doublecrossed by his boss and his family murdered, O'Sullivan is forced to protect his son while he goes on to avenge the death of his family and get justice. The graphic novel is drawn in black and white ink. This enhances the gritty sense of the story, and it highlights the crime genre very well, giving a strong sense of place to the Chicago and Midwest of the 1920s. In a way, the art style is reminiscent of some of the pulps of the era, which I think makes it a stronger work as a result. The story is fast paced and engrossing. Even if you have seen the film, you are still caught up by the tale. By the way, while there is still a tragic ending, some of the details are very different from the film version; I won't reveal which. This is definitely a fine example of how the graphic novel genre can be used to tell a good tale. In this case, I think the movie catches most of the essence of the novel. However, over time I am sceptical as Hollywood, known for pretty much making movies out of other people's stories, will botch other graphic novels. That aside, this graphic novel is one selection that I very highly recommend.

For fans not familiar with the film, reader advisors may suggest that this novel is similar to works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and especially Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer, the books, not the series).

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