United States of Murder Inc #1 Review

By: Rob Neil Gruszecki

What if, in the latter half of the twentieth century, the Mafia flourished instead of crumbling into obscurity? What if the five families had expanded outward and poisoned all of America, becoming more powerful than ever before? What if the only way to topple the organization was from the inside? Sworn in by blood and planted in generations before even being born, Valentine Gallo is the catalyst for a new era in the world of organized crime and the United States of Murder Inc.

From the creative team that is responsible for Powers at Icon Comics is United States of Murder Inc. A crime story that combines the prolific talents of Brian Michael Bendis (All-New X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, Scarlet, Brilliant) and Michael Avon Oeming (The Victories, Takio, The Mice Templar) as they explore the eastern expansion of the Mafia in a world where its power never dissipated. The two creators join forces to tell a much different tale than what they have been telling in the pages of Powers for over a decade now. This time around there are no capes or superpowers but the tone and attitude of their previous collaborations is still prominent in this new ongoing. Crass, violent, wordy, cruel and badass, USMI is a great first issue from a team that has only delivered quality in their many years of partnership.

Issue number one of United States of Murder Inc is a true gem. The explosive last few pages that completely disorient your expectations for the series are a hook that any mature comic fan could get behind. Leading you steadily through the dark world of organized crime and then throwing a curveball that knocks you out right at the end is a masterful delivery almost guaranteeing a carry-over audience for issue two. It should also be said that issue one is 43 pages of uninterrupted, ad free story. The amount of content and story in this first issue is a testament to the quality and overwhelming passion that is poured into creator-owned work and for only a 3.99 price point (the typical price for a 20-22 page Marvel or DC title) I think USMI issue one is probably the best value comic you can pick up on the shelf this week.

Getting to read creator-owned Bendis work is incredible. As one of the most prolific writers in comics today, handling four ongoing titles at Marvel in addition to his independent works such as Scarlet, Powers and Brilliant, he consistently produces exhilarating and clever comics, USMI being the newest addition in that trend. The parallels with his mainstream work and his creator-owned work are apparent as they share the same heavy word count and pithy dialogue but getting to read Bendis completely unfiltered and uncensored in books like Powers or now USMI is a great experience. Clearly letting loose on all his pent up foul language that isn’t welcome in the Marvel universe, Bendis’ characters are raw and bitter in a charming, relatable way. His cursing is never excessive, however very harsh and this new series being about the mob you can only imagine the amount of bombs being dropped verbally and honestly it’s liberating. His characters talk like real people, with real flaws and sharp tongues and in USMI you really understand and appreciate the honest phrasings of these foul characters.

Mike Avon Oeming delivers the same excellent work he has been for years now and in the pages of this first issue he really gets to have fun with some insane double pages that are a highlight of this launch. His characters are always slick, smarmy and expressive and as we get to see him draw gangsters interact and leave devastating destruction in their wake you notice the versatility and storytelling prowess of an artist like Oeming. Never overdoing it or cluttering up a page, he is one of the master minimalist storyboarders and layout artists in the business and it’s clear in this first issue that he knows when to tone down the flow to usher in a lengthy line of talking heads only to open the floodgates in perfect timing for some incredible action and insanity.

United States of Murder Inc is a truly awesome new ongoing series from the creative team that has been producing Powers, one of the best creator-owned books in comics, since the year 2000. Following a newly ‘made’ man, USMI is a sly, brutal, sinister crime tale with a really excited twist towards the end of its hefty 43 pages of story.

Rob Neil Gruszecki is a writer, musician and Wednesday warrior

Follow him on Twitter @Ghost_Factory

Listen to his music Ghostfactory.Bandcamp.com or the Weekly Comics Round Up Podcast www.GeekStampede.com