Retro Review: Image Comics Near Death

W: Jay Faerber
A: Simone Guglielmini
Image Comics, 2012
Issues: 1-5

I had known Jay Faerber comics from his great run on the early Noble Causes, so when I found this book in the bargain bin, I hoped on it. I knew it wouldn’t be like NC, but I wanted to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

The book follows a former hitman named Markham, who after a near death experience, decides he needs to atone for the killing he’s done. The first 3 issues are stand alone stories, with 4 and 5 dealing with the fallout of his change.

Here’s the spoiler filled rundown. Markham is seen entering a vet office with some type of wound. It’s revealed that he was shot and near death. While Sutton, Markham’s lone friend, patches him up, he sees all of the people that’s he’s killed and is told he’s got some time to make up for things; Markham, a mob hitman, decides that he’s going to atone for what he’s done. When he’s fully healed, he learns what happened to his previous target in an attempt to save her. He finds out where she’s at and another assassin is closing in on her. He ends up stopping Brewster, the assassin, and sends her out of town. The issue ends with the other assassin in the hospital with a gunshot to the face.

Issue 2 is a little more of the same; Markham helps a workplace snitch from being killed. He’s then in the park running when a man runs up to him for help. After helping the man, he finds out that the man is a sex offender and the people trying to kill him were family members of the victim. Markham ends up planting child porn in the offends house to get him back in prison, keeping the family member from killing him.

The next issue has Markham helping a cop out of a corruption situation. In a flash back, Markham killed a snitch and the cop guarding him back in his hitman days; we see that it’s the cop in need now. She accidentally recorded some other cops talking about stealing money and drugs from criminals and those cops are trying to silence her. She wants to bust Markham for all of the murders he’s responsible for, but reluctantly takes his help. He ends up getting her out of the jam.

Issues 4 and 5 tie together and close up the arc. Markham helps a businessman recover his girlfriend, who was kidnapped by the Triad; it’s revealed that they are just trying to keep him in line since they own a portion of his business. Markham brokers a deal to get the business free of Triade ties. The girlfriend ends up getting killed after the deal and Markham confronts the Triade. It’s revealed the Brewster is back and looking for revenge. Brewster blows up Markham’s apartment with Sutton in it. Markham decides it time to end this; he calls the family members from issue 2 for backup. He calls the cop from issue 3 to get Brewster arrested after convincing him to confess into a hidden mic.

The only thing left after this arc is Markham’s former boss being upset about the issue 1 hit interference. The story tied up just about everything nicely. My quick recap really doesn’t do the story justice.

The book was well written and the dialogue was solid. Markham was a strong lead character and you felt compassion for his decision to change his ways. The supporting characters could have been a little more developed, but they didn’t take away from the story.

The art fits the story well. The characters are drawn in a gritty fashion and all of the colors are subdued; it fit the noir style of the book very well.

There were another 6 issues of the book and I’d be interested in finding the rest.

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