John Wagner has been all around comics since the 70′s but Judge Dredd is what he’s really known for. The aesthetic of Judge Dredd was never really interesting to me so I never read it. However, walking around San Diego Comic Con 2012, I happened upon the 2000 AD booth and was happy to discover the Button Man series of which I bought The Killing Game. The covers immediately snagged me with a wonderful sense of design but it was Arthur Ranson‘s interior art that forced me to buy this book.
Ranson’s art has amazing detail of line with smart use of color to define location and time changes. Ranson captures incredible emotion in the way he draws faces which intensifies Wagner’s storytelling. In terms of story, Button Man basic but original. A mercenary has become bored with his life so he accepts an offer to start playing a kind of Most Dangerous Game. Like I said, it’s not the most complicated story. But great reads don’t need to be complicated. And Button Man proves that a simple, elegant story can often be an incredible read if it’s crafted well.
Button Man is one of those stories that starts off with the reader knowing how it will end – or at least thinking they know how it will end. But great stories are not about how they begin or how they end but how the reader experiences the journey of getting from the beginning to the end. With Button Man, it’s all about fantastic action that frames difficult and interesting decisions made by what should be but is not a completely unlikable mercenary. It is of course, his decisions that make our mercenary not completely unlikable. The cherry on the sundae of The Killing Game is the last pages where the reader is given a psychedelic version of the ending they thought they’d get from the beginning.