“Created, Written, Drawn, Colored and Owned” by Kaare Kyle Andrews
Sometimes you can tell when an illustrator is also writing the story based on the layouts, arrangements, or the elements that are showcased on any given page. Other times, you read a book and it just feels right, as if the person crafting it was in tune with the work itself — whether or not they were an artist first, or a writer first, or capable of performing each tasks with equal strength, it ultimately doesn’t matter. It just feels right. That is 100% the case with Renato Jones: The One %, now available in trade paperback from Image Comics.
It may not be necessary to make comparisons, but it’s fair to describe this book as containing elements of Frank Miller’s Sin City and Casanova by Fraction, Moon and Bá. Intentional or not, and without being a literal influence, Renato has a degree of familiarity to it that makes you wonder if the story was inspired while the author absorbed other material. It feels as if certain scenes, beats, and plot lines are formed to feel at once like a gritty noir and also lighter, more fiction-based. The results, if it matters to you, are something in between original and homage; again, it doesn’t feel literal.
Beyond the complexity of that leftover sensation, this is a terrific reading experience. One thing is completely undeniable, and that’s Kaare Kyle Andrews. If you know his work then you know that digging into a comic book he’s working on is going to have flair. Andrews is a master at masking his own individual art style to fit the subject matter. Here, in his own book where he’s the man in charge, you get the impression that Andrews decided to venture out into territory he was glad to be in, although somewhat unfamiliar with. You can bet he put in the hours producing this story, but it may also be a sure bet that he enjoyed himself. Upon reading the first issue in this trade, you’ll no doubt realize that whatever the influences and motivation behind creating this book way in which it was done, the real benefit is the end result. Renato Jones is its own brand and though it may not be obvious from the outset, this is Kaare doing what he does best…making a comic book that is worthy of the new release rack, and formulated to be an ideal read for any fan.
Andrews writes a thoroughly realized story, using a concept that doesn’t necessarily fit into any one genre. Now and then he strays from the general format to introduce photo-realistic imaginary advertisements, or bold, stark black and white pages that do as much to convey the scene as they do to protect you from what violent act may be happening. It’s as if we are meant to view the story from multiple angles each curating a different emotional reaction. This is, after all, a comic book and it feels like it was written to really feel like that on purpose. That may be a strange thing to say, because obviously it’s a comic, but there are bits and pieces that actually go out of their way to remind you of that fact by using the medium itself to heighten the event.
Within the art there are more stylistic cues as well. Occasionally traditional, old school halftone patterns come and go, page creases are built-in, and visually the book leaves nothing back on the drawing board. It’s all here and Andrews uses tricks, methods, and effects in strategic ways that only work in service to the overall story. Through color and texture, readers are treated to a vintage appeal that blends seamlessly into a more modern world. From the intensely bright yellow front cover, you may think this book will rely on flat and vibrant means of telling the story, but that’s not the case. Kaare builds a realistic palette, that often strays into grayscale or the aforementioned black and white. He uses lighting and light effects as a final touch of sorts to create yet another layer of expertise on any given page. It’s all meant to keep you on the verge of being off-balance, while creating a harmony suitable for a story about what makes this assassin who he is.
Fast paced, action-packed, fun and exciting; there’s a genuine plot told with sincerity, but at its core this book takes you to a world where violence and mayhem are common place. It’s convincingly done, and even if you are reminded of other comics already out there — if only in certain moments and places — the fact is, Renato Jones: The One % is a professional effort created by a guy that is creatively firing on all cylinders. Kaare Andrews knows how to create mood and atmosphere that will guide your reactions and remind you of the things that make comics so much fun in the first place. If you’re attracted to neo-noir books with a punk rock attitude, that do as much to preserve nostalgia as they do to create a sense of originality, then you should check out Renato Jones, and also invest some time in Andrews’ other works. There’s a good deal of supplemental material in the trade giving even further insight to the process and techniques that Andrews has masterfully executed. Despite his other accomplishments already available, here’s hoping there’s plenty more of this title to come!