Written by Walter Hill, Dennis Hamill | Adapted by Matz | Art by Jef | Published by Titan Comics
Can lightning strike twice? The team of Walter Hill, Matz, and Jef did a great job on their Triggerman book, a book I really enjoyed reading earlier this year. This title, The Assignment, originally came out as a three issue adaptation of a Walter Hill screenplay. The film that came from said screenplay, The Assignment (or Tomboy, as called elsewhere – including on iTunes, where the film has just been released in the UK) came out to somewhat mixed reviews last year, despite starring Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver. If nothing else, my interest because of all this was certainly high enough to give this book a go.
As you would expect with a Walter Hill piece of work, we open with a very stylish piece of violence. Meet Frank Kitchen, a hitman. One of the best in fact. We first meet him in the midst of a job, where we also learn Frank does a nice line in first person narration. All very stylish and cinematic. Frank takes on a new job for a very dangerous client, but while waiting for his ‘hit’ to come back into town, he gets lucky in a local bar with Johnnie, a nice but emotionally damaged girl. This is all very nice, well written but pretty standard fare, and I wondered if Walter Hill had produced a dud.
I needn’t have worried, the twists started coming thick and fast. Firstly, Gleason, the dangerous man who hired Frank, double crosses and has his henchmen shoot him. Frank survives, but upon waking up finds he feels and looks a little, er, different. Frank has woken up a woman. Yep. Turns out the person Frank killed at the beginning of the book was someone very special to a doctor, a very clever but very disturbed doctor, and this gender reassignment was their idea of revenge. Macho killer Frank now and forever a woman, sweet irony. None of this is known to Frank initially though. Frank understandably takes a while digesting all this, and also soon discovers the world is something of a different place when you are a woman. Especially in the circles he is used to mixing in. Things hit rock bottom pretty quickly.
While Frank is slowly getting himself/ herself back on his/her feet, we learn a bit more about the doctor. Dr Fellner had been experimenting on homeless men, performing amputations, before being caught and questioned by doctors obviously concerned about her mental health. The interview she gives is in retrospect, which we learn by story’s end. They don’t believe the Frank Kitchen story, as they have no record of Frank, for now. Frank meanwhile, has pulled himself together, and made contact with Johnnie, the girl he met months back. She agrees to help, after getting over the initial shock of Frank’s new appearance. Time to go to work.
Frank goes on a one person rampage across the city, taking out everyone in John Gleason’s organisation he can find. This includes his right hand man, the one who shot and injured Frank when still a man. Frank finally finds Gleason and takes him out, but not before he reveals Johnnie, who has essentially become Frank’s girlfriend, was the nurse who assisted the doctor with the surgery. Although a betrayal, Frank doesn’t kill her, after learning that the doctor lied about what they were doing to Johnnie, though she knew it illegal. Frank heads to the doctor’s underground surgery, where he escapes being initially captured and then performs a little operation of his own on the doctor, after finding Johnnie dead.
On balance, a mixed bag. The Assignment is not as good as Triggerman, but still very entertaining. As a whole, the story doesn’t live up to that initial promise of the first issue, and the pacing felt a little hit and miss at times from then on. I did enjoy it though, and worth a read. Lots of adult themes, violence, and nudity which is not for everyone obviously. The art, by Jef, was sublime. Gorgeous to look at, very cinematic, very fluid, and some lovely full page panels. Draws the ladies very nicely too.
Flawed yes, but very entertaining and just gorgeous to look at. I liked it.