The Assignment (#1 – 3) – Matz, Walter Hill

1 out of 5

The third HCC comic series – although I believe this is a re-presentation of a French graphic novel, translated by HCC guy Charles Ardlai and since transitioned into a film by creator Walter Hill – continues the downward slope of diminishing returns from the generally quality Triggerman (by the same creative team) to the I-get-what-you-were-going -for-but-you-missed-the-mark Peepland, and now this: The Assignment, a coulda-been-fun trashy revenge tale with a zonkers setup that quickly throws out comprehension of storytelling in its second issue, then decides it might as well abandon character in its third issue as well.

Things start out okay in issue one, as writer Matz takes a fairly grounded approach to the show and tell of hitman Frank’s black and white morality.  He does hits; he knows its wrong; business is business.  Jef dresses up the current hit – an in-debt fashion mogul – with appropriate sleekness and gloss.  But it’s noir, so things most go awry, and the hit is called in on Frank for reasons unknown.  …And Frank goes down disappointingly easy – or perhaps more accurately, Jef in no way sells the logistics of the fight to convince me of Frank’s tuff reputation – and sometime later, our narrator is waking up, completely bandaged.  Issue one ends with his unwrapping, revealing that Frank has had a physical makeover… and now looks like a woman, bits and bob included.

Yeah, it’s a bonkers concept, but it’s a wacky cliffhanger, and works well enough with the scene-chewing style of the book.

That the next issue sidesteps realism by giving Frank a flawless transition after just, apparently, a few months – the person who did this leaves a note explaining that it’s revenge for a hit as well as some hormones to take and that’s all we need to know to justify a backroom sexual reassignment – and that he doesn’t seem to care too much, only focused on vengeance, isn’t a big deal in itself, given that the book is clearly gearing for the exploitation genre and not a think piece, but it’s also at this point the Matz and Jef forget how to tell a story.  Perhaps because Assignment was essentially a script adaptation, quick cut scenes start occurring without much sense of consequence or care for the page (a set of scenes that might work okay as a film montage…), and we’re clumsily introduced to ‘The Doctor,’ being interviewed in an insane asylum as she confeseses to her Frank-revenge crime.  That Matz has the gall to try to sprinkle this with gender commentary is fairly insulting – every now and then Frank just sort of decides to care, then beats up a misogynistic dude and it’s okay again – and by the time we get around to the Doctor’s completely unsatisfying Why explanation, any good faith the first issue or our appreciation for exploitation might have earned is gone, chased off by completely inconsistent characters, a complete lack of stakes, a mismatched and stiff art style, and a plot that’s pointed towards a bad guy just because it has to be, not because it necessarily makes sense for the story.

I flipped the last page happy it was over, and hoping the HCC comic imprint can bounce back with some entries at least on par with their better books.

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