BOOM! Studios knows how to start the new year off with a BANG! Out this week in local comic book stores is the new, four-issue series, The Last Contract, about a geriatric hitman who is forced out of retirement when a mysterious person threatens to go public with a list on contracted hits. Writer Ed Brisson and artist Lisandro Estherren created the story with Niko Guardia on colors and Brisson completing the lettering. Artist Vanesa R. Del Rey was tapped for an incentive cover which resonates the comic’s dark themes.
The use of a hitman as a central character isn’t new, but Brisson takes care in creating his character, which goes against the prevailing stereotypes. The hitman in The Last Contract is an old man who has been out of the business of executing contracted hits for twenty years. His mind has dulled, and senility is settling into his grey matter. He lives a simple regimented life. In spite of the personal challenges and the length of time in retirement, he is in control of each dangerous situation. Perhaps, think John Wick in thirty years – someone you just don’t want to cross, regardless of how old he is.
Brisson quickly builds an intriguing, violent story. The man travels back and forth across the Canadian territories between Vancouver Island in the West to Toronto, Ontario, in the East. It clues in the reader to the sense of urgency of the situation and the resolve of the man who just wants to retire and leave his old life behind. The pacing works well and shows no signs of slowing down. In addition, Brisson sprinkles touches of humor that provide an escape valve to the mounting pressure of the story. For example, a chuckle is solicited when Burrell observes that he is being interrogated late in the night in the middle of nowhere by a senile old man wearing his pajama shirt!
While Brisson has adeptly balanced the story’s components, Estherren’s art capitalizes on the dark atmospheric mise en scene with an eye for detail. For instance, he shades in shadows cast by buildings, individuals, and window framework on a kitchen floor. In the page layouts, Estherren has taken care to capture subtle moments such as when the man rubs Harv’s head as he returns home or when, in one frame, Estherren shows the man’s struggle to button his pajama shirt. They are nice touches that humanize the story and its characters.
Flashbacks are featured a couple of times during the issue and Estherren uses a clever technique to denote them. Small pictures float in the background which relates moments from the man’s past. The images are graphic, violent, and fragmented – like scraps from a paper jigsaw puzzle – taken out of context. It’s imaginative and fits with the source of the flashbacks: the man who is experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lastly, Guardia chose a captivating palette of colors. Since the story predominantly takes place at night, he uses cool blues, purples, and black to his advantage. Yet, he then contrasts them with several shades of warm magenta hues, highlighting the frame’s light source as a way to lead the eye and, at times, the explosive action of the story. At those high-tension moments, the brightness of the magenta is almost overpowering and unbearable, but in keeping with action of the story.
If the first issue is any indication of what is to come in the remaining issues, then this promises to be a violent, fast-paced, trope-bending thriller. BOOM! Studios and the creative team of Brisson, Estherren, and Guardia definitely have a hit with The Last Contract!