The Complete Accident Man by Pat Mills, Tony Skinner, Martin Edmond, Duke Mighten and John Erasmus.

Accident-Man-Full-CoverChances are in the past few months you’ve received an automated phone call or text telling you they had the money for your recent accident, one which you never had, and chances are that you’ve wished they’d have an accident, preferably one that breaks all their fingers so they can’t phone you again. Of course then they’d probably sue and win a metric shit ton of money, meaning they could hire someone to make sure the person that was responsible for their accident, could have an accident – and who could they hire to do such a thing? Well, how about Accident Man? Who?!? Well for those of you wondering who this character is Titan books have recently released a collected edition of all the Accident Man stories by Pat Mills showcasing the character’s beginnings in Toxic all the way through to his run for Dark Horse later on.

Given the name you’d possibly think Accident Man was the non de plume of a super hero with Black Cat like powers. The truth however is way nastier and far more enjoyable. Accident Man aka Mike Fallon is a Hit Man by trade who’s M.O. is making all his hits look like accidents or suicides. Mike is a man who takes a lot of pride in his work and making it so that very few people will actually know what he’s been up to. He has three core rules (never get angry, never get caught, never get involved) and always thinks of his victims purely in financial terms, that guy there is a new sound system, this one here is a motorcycle. Driven purely by financial incentive Mike maintains a cool and professional detachment from his work, but the death of an ex girlfriend, Gill, leads Mike to rethink his rules and to use his unique skill set for another purpose: Revenge. While the connecting thread of Gill’s murder provides a loose over arching narrative the tales work equally well as stand alone stories with Pat Mills’ writing keeping the tone of the character consistent throughout, which allows for an incredible sense of freedom where the artwork in this book is concerned…

Accident man EdmondThe first story is drawn in a very dark but humorous style by the late Martin Edmond. Purely on a personal level Edmond’s take on the strip is my favourite. Limbs snap and blood flows with a huge sense of force. The colours feel almost smeared across the page as if the ink were still wet, but this adds to the physicality of the story and its characters who are drawn in an over exaggerated way that may remind you of MTV cartoons from the same era. You’d think that this would lead to the strip feeling Americanised but Edmond’s Accident Man still speaks with a particularly British accent and after reading it, it becomes hard not to imagine that the bloke stood at the bus stop outside your house could have someone watching him from the bushes, hidden and waiting for the right car to come along at at the right speed…

Accident man MightenAs good as Edmond’s pencil work is though it tends to focus on the grimier aspects of Mike’s lifestyle. Duke Mighten’s take on the character is an altogether different beast. Yes Mike still takes down his opponents with a swift brutality that gets the job done, but this time round we get to see more of the lifestyle that having such a skill set allows him to lead. Mighten replaces Edmonds gloomy palette with an assault of colour that turns Fallon’s world into a Michael Mann movie. The cars are fast, the suits are sharp and Mike himself is living it up amongst the London Docklands. This is an aesthetic much more in keeping with the characters self indulgent philosophy and sums up Fallon perfectly. Mighten also returns to take up pencilling duties for Fallon’s final story, originally published in black and white for for Dark Horse (also contained in this volume) With all of Mighten’s focus on the more colourful aspects of Fallon’s life style you might expect his work to falter when it’s published in monochrome. Instead however Mighten seamlessly shifts gears and produces an incredibly intricate and detailed story that once again looks as sleek and perfectly fitted as one of Fallon’s designer suits.

Accident man ErasmusWith Mighten producing such an impressive take on the character you might think that anyone following in his footsteps would have a hard road ahead of them. John Erasmus, who produced the pencils for Fallon’s third outing in Toxic, does a fantastic job nonetheless though taking the best aspects of both Edmond’s and Mighten’s work and mashing them together with very interesting results. The characters themselves are beautifully composed while Erasmus makes the best use possible of the settings that Fallon finds himself in. An assassination in a very typical English Country Garden results in the collection’s most colourful sequence, while a trip to Amsterdam renders the red light district of the Dutch capital as a demented neon clown. In amongst all this colour though Erasmus still makes Mike’s actual work as grim and unpleasant as ever, lending the characters a sense of brutal physicality that makes the books fight sequences resonate with the reader.

The settings and stories of each book can be seen to play to the different strengths of each of the artists, however it is the distinctive voice that Mills grants Fallon that allows each story to stand alongside the others without allowing the quality to dip. I must admit to a slight sense of nostalgia with this book as I first discovered Toxic (and Accident Man with it) at a time when I was far to young to read such things. It became something of a watershed moment for me, forcing my eyes open with matchsticks to the possibility that comics could be more graphic than I had previously realised. Granted at the time I simply liked Accident Man because of the graphic violence and that people had sex and used the sort of words that I got in trouble for using at the dinner table. Looking at the book again as an adult though I understand that this book has more to it than just tits and violence. Mike Fallon is the poster boy for 90′s excess, someone who is as shallow as he is rich, and yet , this being the 90′s, his ex girlfriend’s murder would have normally seen him using his skills for good rather than evil. Instead, apart from inspiring the character to get some good old fashioned revenge, Gill’s murder changes practically none of this and he carries on being the same deplorable bastard he always has been. It is the character’s amoral selfishness that makes reading him so enjoyable though, well that and the morbid enthusiasm with which Fallon carries out his work and the endless imagination Mills applies to the character’s methods. What’s more Mills also knows how to play to his audience. The characters and settings in the Toxic stories are portrayed in an utterly British way. There is still the sense of hyper realism you get with all comics as the places you knew are morphed into something more than themselves but they are still recognisable. This makes the shift in tone (both in terms of art and writing) even more impressive with the character’s stories for Dark Horse shifting the setting to the U.S. The stories suddenly feel more tailored to an international audience but the character’s voice remains as sardonic and purposeful as it ever was.

It’s good to see that in the twenty plus years that have passed Accident Man has lost none of the qualities that made it such an enticing read when it was first published. If anything it has improved and is equally worth reading for those that have never heard of the character before as those that have. Though next time the phone rings and I have to sit through another one of those automated messages just so I can hit 9 to have my name taken off their list I’ll have to admit to being a little worried that while I may not be paid for the accident I had, someone else could have been paid for the one I’m about to have…