When will Sylvester Stallone stop?– a review of Matz and Wilson’s A BULLET TO THE HEAD

BulletToTheHeadMatz is a fascinating writer. When you look at his and Luc Jacamon’s The Killer, you see a book of very few words where the writer lets the artist really tell the story. Their main character there is a man of acts, preferring to let his deeds do the talking for him. In Bullet To The Head, a story of a killer and a cop who have to team up to get revenge for their dead partners, Matz fills the pages with Tarantino-like dialogue. In the first pages, as two hired killers wait to knock off a senator, they talk about shoes. One wants the best shoes, the kind that look worth every cent he paid for them. The other just wants his sneakers. “… American elegance is wearing sneakers with suits,” Jimmy argues. It has nothing to do with the actions that these two men are preparing for but this conversation tells us a lot about them. For a writer who is very economical with words in one story, Matz just lets the words flow all over the page in Bullet to the Head.

Of course, the characters in Bullet To The Head are all far different than Matz’s Killer. The Killer is a man who doesn’t want to waste anything, particularly words. Jimmy and Phillip, the cop he teams up with, are an Odd Couple pairing. Phillip isn’t a killer before he meets Jimmy but he is a cop who was willing to look the other way for his partner so we know he’s someone who is willing to bend the rules for his new killer partner. Jimmy may be a thug but after his own partner is killed, he’s out for justice as much as he is for revenge. The way that Matz and artist Colin Wilson play out the story is more low key than you would expect. This isn’t an action story, although there are some action scenes. As Jimmy and Phillip follow the trail of why their partners were killed, Matz and Wilson create a suspense thriller that ends up being more about motivations of people in power than about their actions and need for revenge.

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One of the only things you need to know about Colin Wilson is that he followed up Moebius on The Young Blueberry series. Wilson deliberately paces the panels on the page, forcing you to slow down as you read this story. Like Moebius in his Blueberry stories, Wilson’s solid storytelling controls the pace of the book, creating with Matz’s script the slow burn fuse that is this story. Matz and Wilson fill the page with panels, packing a lot of words and images into a small space without ever making the story feel claustrophobic. Bullet To The Head is a dense book that uses its density to highlight every action of its characters.

Wilson also has a line like Moebius’ or Walt Simonson’s that just does these incredible acrobatics on a page. A cross between those two legendary artists, Wilson’s art seems both detailed and loose at the same time. He’s an artist who looks like he uses five lines when he could have used one but every line has its own style, its own unique purpose in the larger image. He’s got a rough style as each line looks etched into his characters faces but then he knows when to pull back and use a soft touch on a drawing to highlight a particular setting or moment in the book.

The new Sylvester Stallone movie Bullet to the Head claims to be based on Matz’s (credited as based on this comic book) but the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips’ review  of the movie sounds almost nothing like the comic book. I guess that they had to stretch it out to make it into a STALLONE film. You know the type– big action, fight scenes and little subtlety. Matz and Wilson’s story is a tight thriller,built on suspense than rather action. Matz spends time getting to know the characters and building the story around them while Wilson’s lines just sweep you up into the story and carry you along, disguising how concentrated the story about a killer and a cop is actually built.

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