Sunday, May 16, 2010

Review: Random Acts of Violence

I was disappointed in Random Acts of Violence, the new graphic novella from co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray.

The premise was pretty brilliant: Two comic book writers, Ezra and Todd, create Slasherman, a homicidal maniac working under the belief that his killings are art and the grieving friends and family of his victims are the audience, receiving an emotional reaction you can't get simply by looking at a portrait or chiseled statue. The kicker comes when, at the end of one of the issues, the creators invite fans to “show us your best kill.” Meant to be an art/writing contest to allow a fan to take part in the creation of an issue, the book inadvertently flips a switch in the brains of several real life crazies who perform grizzly acts with the hopes of winding up in a comic book.

Other than the intriguing premise and Giancarlo Caracuzzo's art, the book has little more to offer than an unfulfilled promise to the reader of a violent comic that will force you to think. Palmiotti and Gray take several stabs at achieving this goal, but all fall regrettably flat. The first couple of pages are fantastic and feel like they are leading into something truly special. After that, though, the book goes straight downhill.

Told in sixty-plus pages, there's still not enough room to create a story as complex as the one attempted. Ezra and Todd are quickly swept into a world of success provided by their sleeper hit of a book and, at the turn of a page, people start showing up dead. A couple brief looks at Ezra and Todd's life in the comic book industry later and the creative duo experience first-hand the results of one of their fans' work. The police ask the pair a couple questions and then cut them lose. Move on to some more bodies, followed by a conclusion that leaves far too much to be desired.

That all sounded pretty vague, I'm sure, but that's literally because little more actually happens. Unrealistic plot devices allow the story to move from one convenient instance to the next and none of the characters react in a believable manner.

The dialogue is decent, but the story is clunky at best and downright preposterous at worst. This isn't a “who done it” affair where you're trying to figure out who the killer is and there's little tension, as the bodies quite literally just show up.

Also, partially because they act almost completely detached to what's going on around them, I finished feeling no attachment to the two main characters.

Random Acts of Violence feels like it's trying to ask several questions, but too little effort is given to actually answer them or even take part in the discussion. Is the killer's idea of art valid? Are those who create violent art channeling hidden desires? What is the difference between a man who kills and one who writes or draws about it? All thought-provoking subjects and all given about two seconds worth of actual thought within these pages.

Maybe the point is that the reader is supposed to ponder everything on their own or with friends, but after sitting through such a messy story, this is probably the last time I'll feel compelled to bring it up.

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