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A History of Violence
Words by John Wagner - Art by Vince Locke - Published by DC Comics (US), Titan Books (UK) - First published 1997
No doubt David Cronenberg's movie adaptation can be thanked for the current reissue of John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel, though it's a book worthy of note even without the Hollywood hype. While the title A History of Violence conjures up images of epic historical skirmishes, it's actually one man's history. It charts the lengths he's gone to in order to put his past behind him and the devastating impact it has on his life when it finally catches up.
While set in an all too real world of organised crime, the plot occasionally veers into the realms of the far fetched, though this is generally only used for shock value and is fair game for a good thriller. As long as you're happy to accept that you're going to have to suspend disbelief in order to get a good read, you should be fine. The story contains flashbacks that are deftly dealt with, but it's sometimes difficult to correlate the protagonist as an adult with his childish teenage persona.
Locke's art, while lacking detail, contains enough information to keep the story flowing and the pace up. The sudden forays into graphic violence that occur during the book are partially tempered by Locke's scratchy black-and-white style, saving us from a gory splattering of blood, but he isn't afraid of showing some gruesome details when the script calls for it.
The book does what a decent thriller should: takes us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as we witness an apparent pillar of the community reveal a murky past that catches up with his present. It's always good to see a graphic novel like this take on a genre normally associated with prose novels and cinema rather than comics, especially when it does it well.
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