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John Wick Vol. 1 Review

Comic Books

John Wick Vol. 1 Review

John Wick returns…for the first time.

The origins of Keanu Reeves’ iconic assassin are explored in this miniseries from Dynamite! How does the action translate to the page?

There’s no denying the appeal of the surprise-hit John Wick film series. However, one of the most interesting aspects of the films is the inherent mystery of the world John inhabits. Much like Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop, John Wick’s past is hinted at by the people he encounters, many of whom aren’t long for this world, but there are few concrete answers.

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The fear of going into this prequel series is that the mystique that is so important to the film series could be diminished by having too many facets of the character illuminated by the comic. Well, that doesn’t exactly happen in this comic. However, in this case, it may have actually helped to anchor the plot of this miniseries, which occasionally feels a little aimless.

John Wick Vol. 1 Review
Dynamite Entertainment

Where the comic absolutely succeeds in is the characterization of the title character. John Wick is a man of few words and several principles. With a strong moral code and an even stronger stomach, John gets the job done and picks his enemies wisely (usually). The thing is, this comic doesn’t fully take advantage of the “prequel” aspect of the story, so the result is brief flashes of John’s childhood that are mainly distracting from a storyline that shows an adult John doing pretty much the same things we’ve already seen him do in the films.

This miniseries doesn’t really add anything new to the John Wick story, despite its goals. This is often a trap that comic adaptations of existing media fall into. It’s difficult to do something new without possibly stepping on the toes of the film or television creators who are normally responsible for the character. The result here is a story that somehow feels static even as it attempts to flesh out its lead.

Still, there are aspects of story that are fun. As I mentioned at the top of this review, Wick’s mysterious nature is one of the biggest draws to the character, so I don’t necessarily believe that John needs to have a definitive origin story. It’s cool to see some more of the ins-and-outs of the Continental, the exclusive hotel/sanctuary of killers-for-hire, though, as well as John’s first real introduction to the Continental’s El Paso location.

All of this set dressing serves to remind us that John had to start somewhere, but this is somewhat hampered by the fact that John is still taking out every last one of his opponents with little to no problem. We expect this from modern-day John, the famed “Baba Yaga,” but it would be nice to see this greener version of Mr. Wick make an occasional misstep (which he does, but not until a little later in the miniseries).

John Wick Vol. 1 Review
Dynamite Entertainment

Unfortunately, the action scenes are another major problem with this miniseries. The fluid, close-contact shootouts of the film series are gone, replaced by hard-to-follow sequences with multiple explosions and characters pointing and screaming, “He’s over there!” It’s very difficult to tell who is firing at who in several instances, with many of the fights being panel after panel of character shooting toward the edge of the page and then being killed. The visceral feel of the film series is lost here, most of all. Granted, film and comics are two very different mediums, but so much would be gained in translation if these fight scenes looked less cluttered.

Ultimately, this miniseries is a bit of disappointment. I desperately wanted to love it. That’s not to say that John Wick couldn’t work as a comic book or graphic novel series. In fact the gritty neo-noir tone of the film series should be wonderfully suited to the world of comics. Unfortunately, messy fight choreography and a lack of substance to justify the prequel angle (other than a few neat twists here and there) lead this to particular attempt being fairly underwhelming.

John Wick Vol. 1 Review
John Wick Vol. 1
Is it good?
Justice is done in adapting the title character himself to comics, but the plot and action sequences feel half-baked. That being said, I'd be interested in reading another series freed from the constraints of the whole "prequel" aspect.
Pak's characterization of John as a man of few words is spot-on
Some of the exploration of the Continental and the heavy use of Charon is a welcome addition
The actor likenesses are impressive, particularly in the gorgeous covers for each issue
The action sequences that take up most of the book are occasionally hard to follow
While it retains the mystique of the character in his present day incarnation, it never quite adds up to any of the answers promised by the prequel
Character motivations are muddy, particularly in regards to the villains

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