Button Man: The Killing Game
by John Wagner, Arthur Ranson and Tom Frame
What the hell do you say about a creation like Button Man? Well, let’s start with this not even originally being a 2000 AD book. John Wagner and Arthur Ranson originally came up with this idea for the much lesser known and another died-too-young British comic Toxic!, but editorial circumstances and, of course, the death of the comic prevented this from coming to fruition. Enter 2000 AD, the house that John Wagner (and Pat Mills, among others so no disrespect) built. 2000 AD might not have been the best fit for Button Man, what with this story not being science fiction which is essentially the foundation that forty years of 2000 AD was built on. But it worked. We’re talking about John fucking Wagner and Arthur fucking Ranson working on a project together, so of course it worked.
John Wagner’s Button Man: The Killing Game, is quite simply, a work of art. This story that John Wagner has crafted here is gritty, dirty, rough, edgy, and any number of similar adjectives that someone on this side of the keyboard can use to try in vain to describe a book to you. This first collection is quick; it moves at a rabid pace and smoothly transitions from one page to the next without ever making the reader aware that this was originally presented in smaller, episodic chunks, as is the nature of 2000 AD. Whether that was simply a perfectly executed design by the creators–and Arthur Ranson in the introduction does say as much–or simply the best example that bite-sized bits of 2000 AD stories can, and most often do, work very well in a trade, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is you don’t notice it and it’s brilliant.
Segway into Arthur Ranson, since we’re on the topic of brilliant. Ranson, maybe known more for his amazing Judge Anderson work, particularly on Shamballa, really cements himself as a top-tier artist with Button Man. With a story like this, the realism and the down-to-Earth nature lend themselves so well to his style–yes, yes, and so does the insanity that comes with Judge Anderson, but just play along–that you cannot help but be completely sucked into the story at hand. Panels feel like pictures and those pictures seem to move with the frantic pace of the story. Ranson’s realism and attention to detail is staggeringly epic; his figure work and movement is cinematic and just down right gets it. He pours himself into every page and literally gives you everything he’s got. To maybe put this into perspective for some of you reading this that might still be on the fence and are too lazy to Google his work, think of Arthur Ranson’s work as being the perfect fit for a writer like Ed Brubaker. Sean Phillips, also of the 2000 AD cloth, is fantastic of course, but one of those gritty crime stories that Brubaker likes to write paired up with a guy like Ranson? Forget about it. Eisners would literally be falling out of their arms. If that analogy made sense to any of you, that’s the kind of work that Ranson produces here. It’s a step above and a leap in front and it’s a damn shame that Ranson’s career didn’t stretch longer than what we got.
Button Man: The Killing Game is absolutely stellar comic work for every fan of comic. Be it casual or hardcore or everywhere in between. These two creators put on a master class on how things should be done and it feels very much in line with something you might have found in the early days of Vertigo–especially considering a lot of those creators were from 2000 AD. What’s more, Button Man is not your usual fare from 2000 AD; this very well could be your first step outside the mega world of Wagner’s other creation and the mainstay of 2000 AD. We’re going to cover a lot of 2000 AD in the coming weeks and months so why not start here? Button Man is a game changing comic that you need on your shelf by two creators that should be heralded amongst other comic greats. Get it, now, and strap in for a hell of a ride.