John Wick #1 (Dynamite Comics)
Movie tie-in comics are always a tough gamble, and John Wick is no exception. With two of the best action movies of the past ten years under it’s belt, the Keanu Reeves hit man franchise is one of the few “sure bets” in Hollywood right now. But how exactly can you translate the insane frenetic action of those movies to the static comic page? Well, Greg Pak and Giovanni Valletta have an answer: focus on John Wick’s early years as a young assassin.
Taking place years before the events of the first film, John Wick #1 finds the young would be assassin crossing paths with an old enemy from his childhood. The man we’ll come to know as Charon (aka Lance Reddick’s hotel manager) has run afoul of some very bad men and after John Wick rescues him, Charon offers him a place at The Continental. Of course, it’s not going to be THAT easy for the young Wick, as some very bad people have already heard of his name and his growing reputation.
That’s really it for this opening issue, and while it’s pretty brisk, one thing it’s not short on is mood and action, something that Greg Pak really excels at with this issue. Pak’s clearly done his homework with this series, and he sets up a story that’s believable within the framework of what we know about John Wick. The flashbacks to Wick’s childhood had me worried that this series was going to be “John Wick, Jr”, but thankfully that’s not the case, as Pak is able to deliver a compelling story that builds on Wick’s character. Plus he’s able to nail Wick’s soft spoken but dangerous demeanor.
When it comes to the art, Giovanni Valletta definitely has the action choreography down for a John Wick comic, but he’s lacking in the details, specifically when it comes to character’s faces. While his Wick doesn’t look exactly like Keanu Reeves, there’s definitely a resemblance, but his other faces don’t benefit from his loose style when it comes to details. It’s not a complete wash though, since Valletta has some good panel layouts and action sequences here. He just needs to work a little more on the slower moments of the book.
All in all, if you’re a fan of the movies, John Wick #1 is a solid opening issue. There’s nothing here that will make you think the comic will overshadow the movies, but it’s still a fun ride back into the over top world of John Wick. Whether or not you really want to see any of John’s back-story is up to you, but for now Pak and Valletta bring something to tide us over until the Baba Yaga returns to the big screen.