Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2. Button Man: Get Harry Ex by John Wagner

Button Man: Get Harry Ex by John Wagner. Art by Arthur Ranson (buy)
Button Man: Books 1-3

Rating: (5/5)

Sep. 17 2013, 2000 AD, 304 pgs

Ages: (18+)

"The world didn’t seem to need a man like Harry Exton anymore. An ex-soldier and mercenary, Harry was a human-killing machine without a vocation, until an old colleague told him about ‘The Game’. The players, known as ‘Button Men’ are paid to fight to the death in a modern-day gladiatorial contest. Organised by mysterious backers known as ‘Voices’, the killing game offers bountiful financial rewards... if you live. Harry decides to participate, but soon discovers that death offers the only way out!

The world didn’t seem to need a man like Harry Exton anymore. An ex-soldier and mercenary, Harry was a human-killing machine without a vocation, until an old colleague told him about ‘The Game’. The players, known as ‘Button Men’ are paid to fight to the death in a modern-day gladiatorial contest. Organised by mysterious backers known as ‘Voices’, the killing game offers bountiful financial rewards... if you live. Harry decides to participate, but soon discovers that death offers the only way out!  Button Man is an action-packed thriller, deservedly regarded as one of the greatest strips ever to be published in 2000 AD."

Received a review copy from Simon & Schuster Canada.

Enthralling!  This is probably the best story I've read from 2000 AD!  I had never heard the term "button man" before but oddly enough while I was reading this I also was reading a novel where one character said to another, you're not a button man you know.  So, I looked it up and it is a real term used in the mafia, gangs, etc. meaning a low-ranking hired killer (ie. a muscle man).  So this is what Harry is.  He becomes entrapped in a high stakes "Killing Game", not fully aware of the permanence of the position.  He becomes the best player around and then he wants out.  So the rest of the stories surround Harry trying to get out of the game.  Unusual coming from 2000 AD, this is realistic fiction (no sci-fi or fantasy here) with a top-notch thriller, espionage for bored business men "game" at its centre.  An intense story, violent, and one where you never know what will happen next.  Harry is a likeable guy, to a point.  I was rooting for him, he was in an inescapable position, but on the other hand he is just as (more!) much a ruthless, heartless killer in the game as anyone else.  This collection here brings together Books 1-3 of the strips from the comic magazine.  The ending is quite shocking but a good finite conclusion to the book.  However, there has been a continuation of the series and it has not been closed off as finished.

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