I have been excited about this book since I first stumbled across a stunning digital painting featuring a bloodied, bullet-ridden soldier. I immediately researched the artist and discovered Dan Luvisi, who is not only extraordinarily talented, but also a really nice guy, in my opinion. His website will prove the first, his Facebook page the second. He is responsive to his fans, continually excited about his work and supportive of other artists. When invited to review a digital copy of ‘Last Man Standing: Killbook Of A Bounty Hunter’, I immediately said yes. I had pre-ordered my own copy months ago and, more recently, got my hands on one at the Dark Horse display at the New York Comic Convention. It’s as gorgeous as I imagined it might be.
‘Last Man Standing: Killbook Of A Bounty Hunter’ is difficult to define. It’s an art book; weighty and blessed with a cover that begs to be opened. It’s large enough to require its own space on the coffee table, or stick out from a bookcase, enticing those who thought to wander past. It’s also a story aimed at an adult audience who appreciate pictures with their words. It’s not a graphic novel, though. It’s…a killbook. What is that, exactly? Well, to understand that, you need to know a little about the man it belongs to.
The ‘Protector of Amerika’ Image courtesy of Dark Horse
Gabriel is the last of the Paladins, a genetically engineered super-soldier. After winning the ‘Nomen War’ and being awarded the title ‘Protector of Amerika’, he is framed by the terrorist organisation Pandemonium for the murder of his special forces team, Pantheon. The company that created him, Armatech, locks their ‘errant’ Paladin away in the Level-9 facility. There, Gabriel endures (survives?) nine years of torture before his escape is engineered by a former agent of Armatech.
Upon his release, Gabriel discovers Armatech has filled the void left by their Paladin Soldier by over enthusiastically cleaning up the world. Hint: they leave it shiny, but only because the undesirables have been put somewhere else. Out of sight, out of mind, eh? Armed with files, the killbook, on the men and women responsible for corrupting ‘Amerika’, Gabriel embarks on a quest to restore order.
The first two pages of the killbook throw the reader right into the story. There’s a letter from Gabriel that hints at the fact he’s not the most mentally balanced individual after nine years of torture. That is followed by a letter from Agent O, the man who assisted Gabriel’s escape from the Level-9 facility. With the facts from those two brief missives, you’re ready to go and to quote Gabriel, ‘…it’s going to be one hell of a ride.’
This book has everything. Maps, the re-imagined map of New Earth has Mexico labelled ‘El Badlands’. That’s what I’m going to call it from now on (sorry, Mexico). Timelines and snippets of history that tell the story of the ‘Nomen War’ and the events leading up to it.
Then there are the files, which include portraits of each target, dossier-style documentation, detailed illustrated weaponry and known associates. Collected with the files are cards that quickly summarise the facts and…advertising, which gives the killbook the homey feel of a scrapbook. A gruesome scrapbook.
It’s obviously a labour of love, which fits so well with Gabriel’s enthusiasm for it. Throughout, there are notes from the Paladin, comments and observations. His tone is both endearing and disturbing. He sounds idealistic at times, but must be anything but. As I flipped through, I looked forward to these notes. I gained the sense the handsome Gabriel stood at my shoulder, pointing at this page and that in a way that made sure I understood his part in the story.
The file I most wanted to see was on page 192: Gabriel’s file. It’s in the killbook to remind him of who he is and to encourage him to keep perspective. The letter inside has a more sober tone, but his enthusiasm is still obvious.
The last quarter of the book is presented as a package from Little Oak Elementary School. The students are apparently fans of Gabriel and have sent him some of their collectibles. In addition, they have included art of their favourite paladin. This art is actually done by fans of Dan Luvisi and his project and all of it is gorgeous. The fact it is included in the book is stunning and a perfect representation of Dan, himself. How often do you find an artist who pays tribute to his fans in print. IN PRINT! That’s who this guy is. Finally, there is a long dedication and it’s just as awesome as the rest of the book.
‘Last Man Standing: Killbook Of A Bounty Hunter’ is well over two hundred some pages of Dan Luvisi’s art, but it’s not just a series of glossy prints with a small paragraph of description; it’s a world created solely by the artist and populated by his imagination, enthusiasm and dedication. It’s all his. Every page is art and it’s all held together by story. It’s a wonderful concept and an awesome book.
(pub: Dark Horse. 272 page hardback graphic novel. Price: $40.43 (US), £27.90 (UK) ISBN: 978-1-61655-240-4)
RELEASED: 03 December 2013