Back in 2014, Keanu Reeves appeared on screen as legendary assassin John Wick and the film was a surprise hit. The story is based on Wick, who is now retired from his violent lifestyle after marrying the true love of his life. Helen dies suddenly and her death leaves Wick deeply mourning. A mobster shows up, steals Wick’s car and kills his dog, the last gift Helen left for him. Wick snaps and gets revenge. Now Dynamite has tapped writer Greg Pak and artist Giovanni Valletta to bring John Wick to life in the pages of comics.
Does it translate well from film to comic?
Yes and no. When John Wick #1 was first announced, I was on the fence about the idea. Let’s be honest, Keanu Reeves isn’t exactly the greatest actor on Earth. I was very curious how Greg Pak was going to write this character and make him work for the comic book.
Pak does an exceptional job in portraying John Wick in the comic. This is both good and bad because I can feel how wooden the words are coming out of Wick’s mouth. Here he is sitting at a diner, a louder patron seated behind him is going on and on about wanting his steak. The waitress tells Wick he is more than welcome to sit anywhere he likes, but at the counter is quieter. Wick responds with “ I always like it quiet.” with this blank look on his face. It works if you are familiar with the character and recognize that Pak did Keanu’s Oscar caliber acting justice, but if you aren’t, you might be wondering what is wrong with Wick.
John Wick #1 is a prequel to the movies, as well as an origin story. Pak gives a glimpse into John’s past as the Three Bills are giving chase to a much younger John Wick. Wick has stolen a stash from the Bills totaling around two thousand dollars. One of the Bills is amused by Wick’s antics, while another is furious because they are trying to run a business. Wick gives the Bills a run for their money and then the situation takes an extreme turn for the worst as the third Bill pulls out at a bazooka on the busy street and blows everything to hell in efforts to stop the young Wick.
Fast forward to now. Wick is in El Paso, Texas. His past has caught up with him. He soon finds himself face to face with one of the Bills and just like the films that we have all come to love, all hell breaks loose.
But Dave, is it good?
Once again, yes and no. There are some shining moments in John Wick #1, most of which are thanks to Valletta’s artwork. He makes Wick look just like Reeves, which is what the reader wants. Reeves is Wick, it’s that simple. There isn’t any reason to make Wick look any different than what the audience is used to. The action in this issue is fast paced and has the movie feel to it, which is also a big plus.
I am not a huge fan of Pak’s story here, though. Keep in mind that I am saying his story, not his writing. Pak writes the character well, but I am not so sure that I need or want an origin story for John Wick. His past is a mystery, and I’m fine not knowing what made him the assassin he is today. It’s the whole wizard behind the curtain that I feel got ruined for me. I would have liked to have seen Wick progress after the second film or even an earlier story, but nothing that ties into his childhood. I feel the origin slows the story down.
If you are a fan of John Wick and want to know more about his past and take a look into his childhood, then it’s safe to say that you’ll most likely enjoy John Wick #1 more than I did. If you haven’t seen a John Wick film, you aren’t able to fully appreciate this without experiencing Wick on the screen. Start there, first and then check out the book.