Pat Mills has an extraordinary talent for dressing up biting political satire as action comics. Flick through the pages of Accident Man and you’ll get the impression that it’s nothing more than pure titilation, crammed with ultra-violence, kinky sex and Lamborghinis. And on the surface, you’d be right. But the surface of Accident Man isn’t smooth and unblemished, it’s cracked and broken, and you can see behind the facade and stare into its characters’ dark souls.
Mike Fallon is the Accident Man of the title, a hit man of such skill and expertise that he can make any death he’s involved in look like an accident. His targets fall through windows, get run over by cars and shoot themselves in the head with their own guns. When individuals or organisations want someone to disappear without questions asked, Fallon is the assassin they turn to.
Murdering and shagging his way to a small fortune, this 80s psychopath could be seen to be glamourising a life of amoral excess, but this where the satire kicks in. Fallon is Mills and Skinner’s embodiment of Thatcherite Britain: greed and selfish capitalism taken to its ultimate extreme. He is a horrifying character, not just because of his actions but also because of his attitude towards them. Yet Mills and Skinner still manage to keep the stories remarkably funny, dynamic and accessible.
What the writers also demonstrate here is an aptitude at turning episodic serials into arching epics. Although the contents of this book were originally spread over two different titles and around many individual comics, it only gains from this collected edition. The characters grow throughout the stories presented here, always remaining accessible but rewarding loyalty with added depth.
If anything lets the side down its the art. Emond’s scratchy style works in places, particularly when depicting graphic violence, but is less suited to the plush luxury of the 80s. Mighten follows this act with more consistency but still isn’t perfect. Erasmus’s black and white illustration is perhaps the most powerful, though it’s still spiky and raw.
The power of the stories over-rides the shortcomings of the art, but with Howard Chaykin’s work on some of the Accident Man covers reprinted here too, it makes you wonder what Accident Man could have been with a different type of artist on board.