When we’re presented with assassins in media it isn’t usually a look at the person behind the gun. Most of the time it’s through stylish action scenes and harrowing gunfights that have a ton of flair but little substance. Maybe it’s because of the focus on who the people are that make up the top assassins in the world, now eight down from 20, that makes Image Comics’ Assassin Nation #2 by writer Kyle Starks, artist Erica Henderson, and letterer Deron Bennett all the more endearing. Either way, the laughs and the action keep coming with a side of heart and even more personality. Thanks to all of these factors the second issue feels bigger and better than the first.
The second issue picks up shortly after the explosive finale to the first. Aspiring crime boss Mr. Rankin now has his bodyguard staff, a group made up of seven of the top eight assassins in the world; Chad Fingerman, Smoke, Wistful Stan, Connie the Tank, the Mamba Twins, Dave, and (my personal favorite) Fuck Tarkington. Where the first issue was a quick meet and greet between 19 assassins, here we delve into a little more of the remaining eight’s personalities. After a brief conversation between Mr Rankin and the eighth member of his entourage, his friend Maxwell Bishop, a man who agreed to help Rankin because he is convinced one of the top eight assassins is responsible for the death of his husband, we are treated to the “first kill” for each of the bodyguards. Once the remembrance is over the group prepares to move Mr. Rankin, but all does not go as planned.
Kyle Starks’ writing and wit are just as razor sharp as they were in the first issue. The comedy is on point and with the inclusion of every assassin’s first kill, every character feels more fully realized. Despite having relatively little action compared to the first issue the pacing is strong. Likewise, the story contains enough twists and turns that I am truly excited to see what happens in the next issue.
Erica Henderson’s stylish art continues to be a high point in the series as well. Illustrating a comic that jumps back and forth between humor and bombastic violence at the drop of a hat cannot be easy. However, Henderson walks this tightrope with aplomb and every panel matches the script in stylishness and humor. It is a testament to her ability as an artist that the panels of the characters sitting around the table talking are just as much fun to look at as the ones featuring action sequences. The lettering by Bennett is similarly well executed. The dialogue is clear and there is never clutter or a question of who is talking when.
Overall, this issue feels like an improvement on the first one in all the best ways. Now that there are few characters to wrangle the writing feels more focused. The humor remains present and helps to contrast the violence that is necessary with a premise like this. The art and lettering maintain a high standard that serves to elevate this comic into one of my favorite ongoing series. I’m in love with the characters and am excited to see what happens next. Also, if anything bad happens to Fuck Tarkington I will be devastated.
Assassin Nation #2 will be available at comic stores everywhere on April 16th, 2019
Rating: 5/5 Grenades with the pins pulled