Button Man:
The Killing Game

by John Wagner, Arthur Ranson
(Kitchen Sink, 1995)

Harry Exton is a "button man," a paid killer. And he can't stop killing. He dare not, you see, because he's been hired to play a game. A killing game. At any time he, and other mercenaries, may get a call from one of the "voices," men they never meet face to face, who decide the time, place and players. But Harry wants out, which is against the rules. How does he escape this vicious cycle when even the other button men will kill him to keep him from leaving?

The scenario of Button Man is fairly straightforward; its execution (pun intended) is what is so remarkable. Originally written for a British comic titled Toxic, it later ended up running in the U.K.'s 2000 AD. In 1995, it was collected in an oversized graphic novel format by Kitchen Sink Press.

Lucky for comic readers in the U.S., as it could be considered one of the most engaging comic works of the last couple of decades. Writer John Wagner weaves an intensely visceral tale that goes right for the reader's jugular. Exton, the lead character, is extremely believable as a ruthless killer, not hindered by any ethical restraints, but unsatisfied with a situation out of his control. There are no redeeming moral qualities to Exton, so readers shouldn't look for them. Wagner stays true to the character.

What to say about artist Arthur Ranson's work...? We don't see enough of it in the U.S. Much has been said about comic artists with a sense of realism in their work. None, however, has outdone Ranson. His fine line work and detailed composition are seen in every aspect of his craft. Combined with the 9x12" format, Button Man achieved a "cinematic" look years before such a style became popular in comics books. Button Man is recommended for adults who enjoy great action, mystery and intrigue.

- Rambles
written by Mark Allen
published 6 December 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.