At times, American Ronin #1 is quite the cathartic read. Basically, a cold, sunglasses wearing asshole takes out rich assholes by psychologically manipulating them in addition to the other, more traditional action hero skills like hand to hand combat and motorcycle chases through Hong Kong. Peter Milligan‘s elegant, yet brutal writing balances Aco’s zoom panels, grids, and decadent, mayhem-filled layouts. And then Dean White’s colors adding a finishing touch of atmosphere along with Sal Cipriano’s stern, straightforward letters. They all team up to tell the story of a day in the life of a very badass assassin.
Unlike his previous work on Midnighter and Nick Fury, Aco, for the most part, doesn’t use his grids, close-ups, and inset panels to show rapid-fire action. Instead, he uses these storytelling techniques to show the protagonist do his social engineering thing on the utterly empty and pathetic corporate billionaire Barrett Cornell and his cheekier counterpart, the billionaire heiress Gigi Lo, whose foot fetish and cheetahs on a leash are straight out of a Lana Del Rey music video. Aco frames Cornell and Lo in close-up as she teases and emasculates him and makes one of the most powerful men in the world suck her toes. Maybe a little kink shame-y, but Milligan and Aco do a good job building on it as they expand on Cornell’s emptiness. He might have wealth, power, sex workers at his beck and call, and an army of highly trained bodyguards, but this is meaningless because he’s just a pawn for a corporation. So, he just wants to die, and our protagonist has every intention of granting Cornell his wish.
For the most part, Peter Milligan and Aco find a happy medium between mind and body, or psychic and traditional action moments in American Ronin #1. Conversation is also a weapon in our protagonist, Lo, and by extension, Milligan’s hands. It’s a nice bit of schadenfreude to see Cornell go from holding court in a mansion or helicopter to falling on the ground in front of Lo, or having a breakdown as the protagonist (With a help of a DNA injection.) whispers his deepest, darkest thoughts at him. Aco channels a psychological horror director in this sequence with all kinds of ghoulish panels of Cornell’s eyes or the sweat and pills that surround him, and the openness of his penthouse that show how lonely he really is. It really works in tandem with Milligan’s dialogue and captions that cast him as a man in pain, who just wants release from his corporate overlords, but without a little psychic push from the protagonist, he would have continued to live his life of luxury.
Although, it is full of violence, both of the physical and mental variety, American Ronin #1 is actually a slice of life comic. The life of a special kind of enhanced and enigmatic assassin though. But, honestly, I give kudos to Peter Milligan for showing the ronin in action before peeling away layers of backstory or involving him in some mystery master plot. He has a simple job: get a very wealthy man to give into his suicide fantasies, and we get to see him execute this job throughout the first issue. It establishes the ronin’s competence and his role as a rugged individualist in a world that’s run by corporations, not nation states. And as far as individualists, our protagonist is more John Wick than John Galt. He’s not afraid to make a quick friend like Lo to get closer to his real target.
Also, it would be a waste of Aco and Dean White’s visual talents to have them draw just talking heads even though some of the dialogue sequences in American Ronin are more intense than the action ones. I do have one criticism of the art, and that is that it seems Aco is holding back as far as the scale and epicness of some of his layouts, especially in the action sequences, but that might just be him holding something in reserve for a big set piece in issue 3 or 4. The ballet of violence and viscera that he throws down in the last few pages are especially promising and show that the ronin isn’t as control of things as he seems.
American Ronin #1 is a fairly visual interesting action/assassin comic from Peter Milligan, Aco, and Dean White that isn’t weighed down by unnecessary exposition. Except for the last few pages, the book is fairly standalone and has a grindhouse (But slicker.) or darkly humorous tone. If you like John Woo movies, but also want to guillotine Jeff Bezos, then American Ronin is worth checking out.
Story: Peter Milligan Art: Aco
Colors: Dean White Letters: Sal Cipriano
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.2 Overall: 7.9 Recommendation: Buy
AWA/Upshot provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
Purchase: comiXology – Kindle – Zeus Comics