Full disclosure: While the last couple of Retro Reviews represented the top-selling Marvel and DC books of the year 2005, I can’t find the numbers on the top-selling independent books.  (The Top 300 Comics of that year consist entirely of Marvel/DC joints, unsurprisingly.)  So, looking month-over-month, I found an issue that sold really well and seemed noteworthy, then rolled my mental dice and figured we’re probably close enough…  Either way, we’re in for quite a ride with Mark Millar at the helm.

Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Wanted #6 awaits!

**Today’s Retro Review contains adult themes, language and violence.  Spoilerite Discretion is advised.**

Wanted6CoverWANTED #6
Writer: Mark Millar
Penciler: J.G. Jones/Dick Giordano
Inker: J.G. Jones/Dick Giordano
Letterer: Robin Spehar/Dennis Heisler
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Editor: Scott Tucker
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in Wanted:  Wesley Gibson was a loser, a schlemiel, an utter jerk with little to no redeeming value, abused by all in his pathetic life, until a mysterious woman called The Fox arrives and murdered everyone in his line of sight.  Wesley quickly discovered that his father was NOT, as he was raised to believe by his pacifist mother, an airline pilot but was in fact the legendary super-villain known as The Killer.  Said Killer/Father, Fox explained, was recently murdered, and the Fraternity of Super-Villains had sent her to recruit him to replace his father.  At first stunned by the ludicrous nature of her claims, Wesley soon discovered his own skills with a firearm (inherited from his pater familias) and met the remaining super-villains who had, in 1985, destroyed all the heroes and brainwashed the entire world into forgetting that they had ever existed.  The Fox dragged him deep into a world of hidden monsters and betrayal, leading up to the realization that it was all a setup…

A setup engineered by his father, the original Killer.

Wanted61

Having fought his way through the big guns of the Fraternity, murdering all of the competition, Wesley is more than a little stunned when The Fox reveals that the stranger in the shadows IS his father, back from the dead.  Killer I offers to explain to Killer II and Fox exactly what happened, even offering to buy them supper at his favorite restaurant.  For my part, as much as I enjoy Wanted, this page exemplifies the series greatest visual weakness: metaphorical stunt-casting, as Eminem, Tommy Lee Jones and Halle Berry set out in search of veal scallopine…

Wanted62

There is a really wonderful side remark in this sequence, by the way, as Papa Killer explains that he loves this particular restaurant because the chef used to be a superhero, and it amuses him to think of the former cape slaving over his meal.  It’s a mean-spirited kind of funny, but funny nonetheless.  The senior Killer explains all about young Wesley’s life, from the time that he met Wes’s mom at a superhero key party (more than a little bit EWW) to the point where she insisted that Wes live a life free of violence, as she was terrified of her young son picking up Daddy’s natural flair for violence.  Their relationship turned sour due to lack of shared interests: He wanted to murder all the capes in the world, she wanted a home in the suburbs.  Their split, however acrimonious, didn’t keep The Killer from visiting his young son…

Wanted63

I do love the fact that all the flashbacks to the superhero world in this issue are drawn by Silver Age stalwart Dick Giordano, these days probably remembered more for his days as DC’s Editor-In-Chief than for his wonderful line work.  The choice of 1986 as the end of this world’s metaphorical Golden Age of superhumans has a lovely parallel in our world, where that same summer gave birth to ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Watchmen’, stories that likewise changed the world of superheroes forever.

Maybe just not as drastically as they did in Wesley’s reality…

Wanted64

This, likewise, is the point where the story seems to get away from Millar, or at least where it transitions into something I have some large problems with.  In this new world, The Killer still visited Wesley, but he became disgusted with Wesley’s pacifist nature, and the way that the boy let everyone roll over and abuse him.  Bringing his son and The Fox to Wesley’s mother’s grave, he explains to his son that, to be the man, you have to beat the man.

Or, more to the point, Freud was right…

Wanted65

Sooner or later, explains Killer The Elder, his age will catch up with him, and it’s only fitting that his son be the one to put him down before someone else does.  All of the other villains are already dead at Wesley’s hand, all he has to do is murder the one man he’s spent his life longing to meet, and he can get on with the business of being rich and without limitations in a world all his own.  It’s the moment where he could regain some of the humanity he has lost in the course of the last five issues…

…or, alternately, he just shoots his dad in the back of the head.  Y’know, whichever.  He then tells Fox that it’s over, that he’s going back to his old life, and that he’s done with her and her murder and such.

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…only he was totally screwing with her, and with the readers as well.  In execution, it’s a pretty cool moment, one that resonates in ways similar to last week’s “Goddam Batman”, but it’s also an empty one, making the entire miniseries a power fantasy where nobody learns any lessons and nothing changes but the faces of the corrupt people in power.  Challenging stuff, especially for a superhero comic…

Of course, that’s where Wesley’s first-person narration kicks in again, addressing the reader directly, explaining that our* lives are as meaningless as his used to be, and that even this comic is just a distraction from what @$$holes we obviously are, ending with the iconic explanation that the main character of the series we’ve just read holds us in contempt.  It’s hard not to read this issue as Mark Millar directly addressing me, and harder still not to assume that his opinion of the people who buy his work is in Wesley’s final words of the issue, a manifesto of “Screw or be screwed” that makes my teeth itch.  It’s not an ending that I’m surprised by, but it’s not one that I enjoy.  Wanted #6 ends the series with a big middle finger and an admission that the lead character was always irredeemable, making a powerful statement that I nonetheless find to be a little TOO cynical and vicious for my tastes, but still pulling off an better-than-average 3 out of 5 stars overall.  I enjoy the art of both Jones and Giordano, and I admire Millar for making the art he wanted to make, but the ending of this comic represents the point where my esteem for Mr. Millar’s superhero work began an as-yet-unabated downward slide…

Full disclosure: While the last couple of Retro Reviews represented the top-selling Marvel and DC books of the year 2005, I can't find the numbers on the top-selling independent books.  (The Top 300 Comics of that year consist entirely of Marvel/DC joints, unsurprisingly.)  So, looking month-over-month, I found an issue that sold really well and seemed noteworthy, then rolled my mental dice and figured we're probably close enough...  Either way, we're in for quite a ride with Mark Millar at the helm. Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Wanted #6 awaits! **Today's Retro Review contains adult themes, language and violence. …
Equal parts cynical, angry, distracted and mean-spirited, it's a rough ending for a series with flashes of brilliance.

WANTED #6

Writing
Art
Coloring

A Mixed Bag

Equal parts cynical, angry, distracted and mean-spirited, it's a rough ending for a series with flashes of brilliance.

User Rating: 2 ( 1 votes)

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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Retro Review: Wanted #6 (February 2005)