Romances aren’t always requited. As a culture, we’ve been exposed to the fact that on television and movies that the guy always gets the girl (or vice versa). It’s the oldest trope in time – well, one of them anyway. Unrequited love is bittersweet and more often than not, the best love stories. You don’t always need romance to express love. That’s my impression of this graphic novel. And believe me, Appalachian Assassin wouldn’t have been my call for this, yet for all the bells and whistles of the story, that’s exactly what it is at its core.
Writer: Adrian “Asia” Petty
Illustrator: Carlos Embalzado
Colours: Sherri Hunt
Cover Art: Summer Dale
Editor: Chuck Pineau
The premise of Appalachian Assassin is pretty simple. This is the story about how Betty Jo becomes an incredible supersoldier. The book lives up to the hype.
We begin with Betty Jo at death’s door. A lot of philosophy is thrown at you at the very beginning. Things from Sun Tzui and a code of honour. Jesse English comes center stage and we find him vowing revenge on Nickerson, his former CO. There’s more to him than meets the eye, and you get a glimpse of his past. He heads back to his hometown to regroup and finds a new recruit in a young woman named Betty Jo. Betty Jo is in a bad situation. To say her father is a piece of work is an understatement, as is the town she lives in. Isolated, and seeing no worth in her life, she just tries to get through the day. She has a little brother who loves her, but who is unaware of the abuse she is going through. That is her only light in the day.
Her father inevitably “sells” her to Jesse who makes her his wife. In reality, he sees great potential in her QI and goes about the task of rebuilding her from the ground up. She nearly dies due to all the trauma and cancer she has. She pulls through, and so begins her training. Jesse is her teacher, her older brother in a lot of ways. Occasionally he is assisted by his comrade, Rainmaker. Before long, Jesse ends up telling Betty about the soldier he was and offers to take her all the way down that path.
The story goes through the next year and a half of training. Everything from Martial Arts, survival, hunting. The group even deals with some local hooligans in a final, fatal way. Betty grows up real fast in the second half of the book. Jessie, over time, comes to fear her because she starts growing beyond his ability to control. He sets up some nasty conditions and keeps mounting the obstacles in front of her.
Betty’s growth is remarkable. From no self-esteem to the warrior she becomes, you watch her progression to Jesse’s eyes. The nature of their relationship is teased from time to time by Rainmaker, but in the end, it isn’t quite clear the nature of the love and respect they have for each other. It’s not a purely platonic relationship, but it’s not a physical one either. Jesse discovers he has no clue what motivates Betty and his own feelings become confused as time goes on. She’s no longer someone he can just use, and has become someone he respects, and loves, even if he has his own issues to work through.
In the end, Betty chooses the codename Suriander and goes on her own mission at Jesse’s behest. And that’s where the issue ends.
If this was an ongoing series, this would be a decent first issue. It’s a full story on its own. I would have loved to see a little more about Jesse’s hatred and why that was. Nickerson had a very personal feeling to it that I feel wasn’t fully covered here. There’s more to that story. As far as Suriander’s motivations, they are a bit of a mystery as well. This isn’t her war. She doesn’t have to do this. So why go in this direction when she could be free?
It’s an interesting love story, as I don’t think she’s doing this just for Jesse. Rather, Suriander has her own purpose in this. Maybe it’s a challenge? Maybe it’s a start? There’s a lot more story to tell here. Her own mission and success or failure will be fascinating to watch going forward.
Adrian Petty reminds me a bit of Tom Holtz. There’s an efficiency in his writing that reminds me of Tom. A lot of research and thought was crafted in this story and you can see it in the final product. Solid work. The same goes for the art. Embalzado provides a bit of a rough quality to his work in the training scenes. Yet he does an amazing job of making Betty incredibly beautiful in the bar. The pencils are a little dirty and grimy. This book has a sense of nastiness to it, and necessary for this story to work. This is about training someone to kill. It shouldn’t be clean lines and something you’d see in a standard book. Yet Embalzado has amazing energy and there are definite spots where he shows off his range. The bar scene above, but also the hair salon and clothing scenes. They were great.
Sherri Hunt added her own dimension with the colours. It added the right tone to this story, keeping the tone exactly where the story needed to go, and adding her own energy in various scenes as I described above. All in all Appalachian Assassin is a solid piece of graphic literature. Check it out.
I got a lot of things going on. First off, My book the Cloud Diver is exclusive to Amazon and I encourage you to check it out. If you like a Cyberpunk/Steampunk adventure this book is for you. I had a blast writing it, and if you enjoy a solid old school sci-fi adventure along the veins of Ready Player One meets Indiana Jones, this is for you. Check out the link here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0881HR54T
My podcast this week was a heavy one. Bryan Tann and I talked about everything. We talked about the current situation going on in the states, as well as whether or not Green Lantern should be about John Stewart next time they create a movie franchise. You can listen to that now.
And finally, thanks for reading. If you got a comic you’d like me to review, contact me. Until next time, stay inspired.