Monday, November 12, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot

The Jacques Tardi comics I've read so far have been bonafide hits for me.  Just check out my reviews for It Was the War of the Trenches and The Arctic Marauder if you don't believe me.  I've had such good luck with Tardi's work that I've gone as far as stockpiling yet-to-be-read Tardi comics on my shelf, so that they are readily available should the desire to read some incredible French comics strike.

When the desire struck me this time around, I picked up Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot.  This is the first Jacques Tardi comic I've read where he's not the sole artist working on the graphic novel.    For Sniper he adapted a novel written by French writer Jean-Patrick Manchette.

The story follows a hardboiled bad-ass by the name of Martin Terrier, who's a mercenary-turned-assassin.  On the opening page of the graphic novel, he executes (pun intended) what he plans on being his last ever job in the killer for hire business.  From there he plans to take his savings, collect a long-lost lady love, and retire to some discreet, and warm, location to live out the rest of his days.

The thing is, his employers aren't too happy with his decision, and to make matters worse, old enemies start popping up in Terrier's life.  Before too long, Terrier finds himself reluctantly dragged back into the life he was trying to leave behind.

Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot definitely has a plot with a lot of wear on it.  We've all read a book or seen a movie where some tired old assassin is gonna do just one last job, then call it quits and retire with a lady somewhere warm.  Sure, it makes for a decent story but it felt a little tired out on this most recent go-round.

I think what makes the "Just one last job" plot-type a success, is a character that the reader, or viewer can root for, someone you wish could have a chance at a better life.  Well, that's not really the case here.  Terrier is a bit of a seedy bastard, definitely on the unsavory side of things, so it was hard for me to wish him well.  If you can get past his cold-heartedness, and his penchant for brutal violence, you could certainly root for the guy based on how damn resourceful he is in a pinch.  By "resourceful" I mean not in the  MacGyver sense, I mean resourceful in that he can decisively handle situations where he's being tailed, held at gunpoint, being back-stabbed...that kind of stuff.  He's pretty much a cold-blooded bad-ass when it comes down to it.

The novel this graphic novel is based on was written by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi handled the adaptation from book to comic. It is an adaptation that feels a little rough around the edges at times.  I think it is always hard to adapt a book into a graphic novel, the written word doesn't necessarily always translate that smoothly into words and pictures.  You definitely need a novel high on visuals in order to make the adaptation work, and even when you do have that situation, like here with Sniper, there are always some crucial parts that don't adapt that well to the new format.  This results in pages that are way too text heavy for the comics medium, or word bubbles that awkwardly contain a paragraph worth of text.

Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot definitely fell victim to that text-onslaught, particularly towards the end. The times when Sniper loses that harmony between words and art always jarred me out of my reading groove, and forced me into this uncomfortable place where the words and art were at odds with each other. As you might imagine, this definitely took away from the overall experience.

The greatest piece of this graphic novel was easily Tardi's art.  As always with a Tardi graphic novel, I was very impressed with the quality on the art front.  Tardi's work here lacks some of the raw emotion of It was the War of the Trenches and some of stylistic flair of The Arctic Marauder, but it is still quality work.  Unlike my other two Tardi reads, this one is much more action packed, and I was impressed to see that Tardi could make action scenes come to life so fluidly.  Tardi's black and white art is definitely a spot-on match for this gritty crime story.

Even though Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot has a plot that isn't doing anything new, and features an adaptation that doesn't translate so well at times, this is still an enjoyable graphic novel.  There was enough scenes of action and intrigue to make me forget my plot gripes every now and again, and as always, Tardi's art was a pleasure to drink in.  This is probably my least favorite Jacques Tardi graphic novel yet, but despite a few warts, I still enjoyed it.

Grade: C+

No comments: