Organized crime reached the height of its power and influence in the 1960s. The domination of crime in the North East was unheralded. But they peaked, their strength ebbed and some semblance of order was restored. In “The United States of Murder Inc.” creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming show a world where the mob’s power never faded away. In this world the mob has taken over a large portion of the United States and the US government is okay with it.
Bendis and Oeming are the writer and artist who introduced the hard hitting, somewhat sarcastic, crime themed super hero police drama in “Powers” in 2000. With “The United States of Murder Inc.” #1, on sale now, the two of them launch an all-new creator owned comic book series that will be published on an alternating schedule with their hit “Powers” series. “The United States of Murder Inc.” is firmly grounded in reality. Superheroes are just ideas in comic books here.
The premiere issue is a double-sized, $3.99 comic at 46 pages more than twice as long as the standard comic. The extra pages allow for Bendis and Oeming to explore the “meat” of this world centered on Valentine, a man who has just been indoctrinated into the crime family that runs the North East territory.
After the first issue it is clear that in order for this story to work you need to like Valentine. Bendis and Oeming get you on Valentine’s side through the framework of the story. He is a man raised by his widowed mother following in the footsteps of his father and his father’s father. His acceptance into the “family” opens a new world in front of him. It is a world of power and a chance to escape the everyday rat race of dealing cards. People run away at the sign of his mob pin. Girls throw themselves at him. It’s a nice life.
Just as the induction comes with its rewards it comes with its responsibilities and undertaking missions for the capo. The first such mission comes with plenty of surprises one in the form of Jagger Rose the voluptuous redhead who knows more about the world around Valentine than he does. She is a great accomplice for Valentine as she explains the way things work that clues in not only Valentine but the reader. Plus she brings a level of spontaneity to the story that breaks from the same old same old.
The breaking from the traditional mob stories is a big thing for Bendis and Oeming in this issue. While some of the story’s themes and events feel familiar the creators provide enough crazy, with things blowing up, bottles getting cracked over heads, and kicking the guy while he’s down to set the book apart from what has come before.
The artwork plays a large part in this separation. Oeming’s style is unique to him as he makes the characters recognizable and relatable as they express emotion across the pages. The narrative of the story is enhanced by simple things like a head nod to convey a tense attitude in a talking scene or through huge double page spreads showing sunglasses reflecting the carnage from a bomb explosion.
In this series Oeming’s lines are paired with the colors of Taki Soma who adds a definite mood to the story. The color palette stays simple with minimal colors per page. This stylistic approach only heightens the introduction of Jagger Rose who is covered in shades of red that are just as brazen and the character herself.
The true separation of “The United States of Murder Inc.” from what has come before comes in the final pages where Bendis and Oeming set up the direction for the series. It is a revelation that provides a new level of intrigue to the story.
The book is available now at comic book stores everywhere. To find your nearest store click here to use the comic shop locator.
Want to read the book right now? Click here to go directly to ComiXology.com where you can download the book instantly and get a copy of Bendis’ original script as a bonus.