Rock Island, Illinois -- 1929. Michael O'Sullivan is a good father and a family man -- and also the chief enforcer for John Looney, the town's Irish Godfather of crime. As Looney's "Angel of Death," O'Sullivan has done the bidding of Chicago gangsters Al Capone and Frank Nitti as well -- but when a gangland execution spells tragedy for the O'Sullivan family, a grieving father and his adolescent son find themselves on a winding road fo treachery, revenge, and revelation.
Writer Max Allan...read more
much better than the film, September 3, 2003 Reviewer: vacuumboy9 from Olney, IL United States Max Allan Collins has earned his reputation as an incredibly prolific writer. If you've read a novelization of a film in the past five years, chances are good that he wrote it. He was the writer behind the daily Dick Tracy comic strip for fifteen years. He wrote mystery novels and screenplays based on his own characters. And of course he's written a few comics here and there as well. But perhaps the work he is best known for, and the work that stands out as the most meaningful, is a graphic novel he produced in 1998 with Richard Piers Rayner entitled Road to Perdition. Set during the Great Depression and based in historical fact, it is the story of gangster Michael O'Sullivan, better known as the "Angel of Death." While O'Sullivan is out on a hit one day, his son secretly tags along and witnesses the murder. From there both Michael and his son must go on the run from mob boss John Looney, who wants to make sure the boy never gets a chance to tell people what he knows. Now if you've never heard of Road to Perdition before, you must not get out much, because a year ago it was turned into a film by the director of American Beauty, Sam Mendes. It was the last film that the great cinematographer Conrad L. Hall worked on before he passed away. Released by Spielberg's production company Dreamworks. Starred Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. That so many brilliant people read this graphic novel and saw some spark in it worth devoting their time to adapting it into a film should be recommendation enough. The film itself does an adequate job of capturing some of that spark, but of course it could never really do the book justice. There are several brilliant themes at work in the graphic novel, some of which carry over into the film but others of which do not. The key relationship in both the film and the novel is that between Michael and his son, and both works spend a great deal of time exploring the nature of the father/son dynamic. We watch these two bond while on the road, actions juxtaposed with John Looney's protection of his own son Connor. But the film centers on this theme at the expense of all others, leaving concepts in the novel such as the theme of loyalty and betrayal and the differences between revenge and retribution relatively unexplored. Religion and ethnicity also play major roles in the novel, but both elements of the story are somehow lost in the translation. Their background as Irish immigrants plays a large part in shaping who they are, for it paints them as outsiders who have nowhere else to turn but to each other. The novel also characterizes the "Angel of Death" as both devout Catholic and cold-blooded killer, and through the son's narration, we are able to explore where the line between good and evil should be drawn. And by cold-blooded killer, I do mean exactly that. The novel's violence, toned down for the film to protect Hanks' image, is graphic in every sense of the word. Road to Perdition is a bloody work with a very high body count, but at the same time it is beautiful. Collins has stated that the films of John Woo were an influence on some of the action sequences, and you can see how well the novel recreated the cinematic qualities of Woo's gun battles, how he is able to make flying bullets seem like a ballet. In the months since the film's release, I have loaned Road to Perdition out to various people and everyone who read it, including non-comics readers, found it incredibly gripping, a real page turner. My own father, who usually is very reluctant to read, couldn't put it down. It is a very good tool for convincing people that comics aren't just kid's stuff, since it deals with both mature situations and mature themes. In fact, I taught it in a class I recently offered on comics. Not only did it lend itself very easily to discussion, it was also the one book that almost all of my students chose to keep at the end of the semester, rather than try to sell back to the bookstore. And if that's not a high enough recommendation, then I don't know what is.