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Written by Walter Hill and Matz, artwork by Jef – American film director Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48Hrs) and French writer Matz met when Hill adapted Matz’s graphic novel Headshot for the movie Bullet to the Head. Triggerman represents a reversal of this creative process in that Matz has adapted a story of Hill’s for the comic medium.

The original five-comic run has now been collected in a paperback trade edition that also includes bonus material, as has become the norm in comics publishing. Included is an interview with Hill, all of the variant cover art, as well as a potted history of the publisher, Hard Case Crime. All in all, it represents a reasonable number of special features, but nothing outstanding.

Walter Hill is now 75 years old, and Triggerman is a satisfyingly old school 1930s story which no doubt suits the writer’s interests and style, but also fits well with the Hard Case Crime publishing ethos. The company’s books famously and spectacularly hark back to the noir and pulp paperback originals of the mid-20th century.

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Triggerman is set in Prohibition-era America, with the action moving from Chicago to the Arizona desert and Los Angeles. The eponymous triggerman is Roy Parker, a Chicago gangster for hire, who is broken out of prison in order to exact bloody revenge on behalf of Al Capone. Three men from out of town had approached the mob looking for driver support for an armoured car robbery. Capone’s nephew filled that role, in return for half the loot. A week after the job was completed the boy turned up with a hole in his head so now Capone is out for blood. As an incentive, Parker is told he can keep any money he finds, but the real motivation for him is the suggestion that his lost love, Lena Dorsey, is somehow mixed up in this business.

The meat of the action occurs in Los Angeles after Parker finally catches up with men he has been hunting. They have sought protection from the local mob, and whilst Capone’s word counts for a lot, there is a lot of uneasiness about Parker’s presence in the LA underworld. Is the Chicago button man really there to begin a take over of their business, they ask themselves? Throw in some crooked and desperate cops, and we have the recipe for a satisfyingly complicated plot full of suspicion and double-crosses. The ending, in particular, is strong with a pleasantly noirish twist.

The art is full colour, detailed and inventive. For instance, Parker is given a slight frame and slightly feminine face, which makes his cold-hearted violence, of which there is plenty, seem all the more chilling. The layout complements the narrative, and there are a number of full page splashes to add extra drama breaking out of the smaller panels. There is enough going on visually to make a second or third reading worthwhile; the expression on a character’s face, just as in real life, can change entirely the meaning of what has been said.

Just as in regular crime fiction, crime comics have been enjoying a popular renaissance for some time now. Its easy to see why Hard Case Crime wanted a piece of the action, and Triggerman is a creditable effort, which should appeal to both comics and crime fiction aficionados alike.

Take a look at another crime-filled graphic novel we reviewed earlier this year – Briggs Land. or see the best of Judge Dredd in graphic novel format. Scroll down to seem more internal images from Triggerman.

Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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