Two Eyes Made Out Of Coal

Button Man: Get Harry Ex by John Wagner and Arthur Ranson. Rebellion / Riverside House, 2013. 9781781081389. Originally serialized in 2000 AD 780 – 791, 904 – 919, 2001, 1223 – 1233 in 1992, 1994, and 2001.

Harry Exton served as a SAS officer and worked as a soldier-for-hire before retiring to Essex in the early 1990s. There he is approached by a friend who tells him about “The Killing Game” in which men murder one another under the direction of “Voices.” The stakes are high but so is the pay. Harry signs up, and he wins a number of matches. But then, bristling at his fate being controlled by a man he knows nothing about, Harry tries to quit. He finds out that it’s pretty much impossible to walk away from the game.

The violence is realistically rendered and the matches feel smart, though no one is as smart as Harry. (He has a habit of killing the opposing button men when wounding them and taking a marker (a finger) would do. It comes across as not so much ruthless or heartless as practical; why face the same gunman again at some point?) The action moves from the UK to the US, and Harry goes up against fiercer and more numerous killers. And there’s a seductive redhead, a crooked politician you’ll hope gets his, and a loyal dog.

The three stories fall somewhere between Get Carter and The Killer. If you liked either I think you’ll enjoy this one.

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