By Zack Quaintance — If you skipped the headline of this piece for some reason, please read it now and report back, because I think it tells you a lot. Assassin Nation #1 is a new comic by writer Kyle Starks, artist Erica Henderson, and letterer Deron Bennett. And, yes, it stars a character named F*ck Tarkington.
It’s a simple bit (and diving into here is definitely not going to win me any awards as a critic of high art, which whatever), but it really sums up the tone of this book. Assassin Nation is clever and self-aware and willing to pretty much anything to entertain. Like the characters in its pages working as hit men, it’s locked in on its target: creating a great experience for the reader. And it certainly does that. This is one of those comics you start reading and then come out on the other end however many minutes later surprised that such a fun, immersive story has a last page.
So yes, I really liked it, which is maybe not that big of a surprise, given that I’ve been a fan of most all of Kyle Starks’ earlier work, from Sex Castle to Rock Candy Mountain to his recent collaboration with Chris Schweizer, Mars Attacks. And when this book was first announced as having artist Erica Henderson (award-winning illustrator of Marvel’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), I clonked myself on the head for not noticing how well their sensibilities might fit together earlier (that’s right, clonked).
The premise of this book is excellently simple: the head of the second biggest crime family around and a former assassin known as Chekhov’s Gun (because when you see him you know someone’s going to get shot) is now being targeted for assassination. So what does he do? Hires a whole bunch of other assassins to protect him. Hi-jinx (and chingos of gun battles) ensue. The whole affair is handle with such a deft and entertaining sensibility. One of the first pages in this comic, for example, is a reference of all the assassins (including Tarkington, F*ck) and a power ranking, I guess of their deadliness. I like that kind of stuff, and find it to be a wonderful example of something that works best in the graphic sequential medium.
The whole book is just loaded with great one-liners, terrific visual gags, and kinetic action. I’m hesitant to go into specifics any further, because there are surprises and I’d hate to let the air out of any more specific jokes. Basically, this comic gets a strong recommendation from me, and you should all check it out.
Overall: Like the characters in its pages working as hit men, Assassin Nation #1 is locked in on its target: showing its audience a great time. This is one of those comics you start reading before suddenly finding yourself surprised that it had to end. 9.5/10
Assassin Nation #1
Writer: Kyle Starks
Artist: Erica Henderson
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: Image Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.