A Train Called Love TPB ComicWow! Review

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This trade paperback includes Issues 1-10.

Garth Ennis (Stitched, the Boys, The Authority, War Stories, etc.) has proven several times that he can turn his hand to any genre and do a great job.  Here, he takes a series of unrelated narratives and ties them together in a mind-bending fashion that denies any attempt to categorize or classify it.

Mark Dos Santos is a great choice for illustrating a project this diverse.  He has a dazzlingly diverse array of credits.  Between penciling and inking, he has worked on many titles including Archie, Cthulhu, JLA, Eureka, Grimm Fairy Tales, Hellboy, New Avengers, Walking Dead, The Book of Five Rings, and more.
This is a story full of strangeness; upper crust KKK drinks Chardonnay at a cook-out in the suburbs, an office supply superstore drone with a horse fetish meets the girl of his dreams, German Neo-Nazi hit men work for an inner-city drug boss, and that’s not even the strange part.

The strange part is how Ennis manages to bring all of these disparate plot elements and unusual characters into one coherent narrative.  His characters include a hitman, a teacher who has sex with a student, a group of wannabe drug dealers, fetishists, people into bestiality, and some strange people.     The other interesting thing is how he manages to make his broad cast of protagonists all interesting, relatable, and even likeable.

Ennis is a truly gifted writer, and A Train Called Love is a chance for him to show the comics world how ingenious he can be.  He deliberately started in a situation most writers would consider a dead-end – the dreaded “I’ve written myself into a corner” moment.  Instead of using a trite deus ex machina plot trick to get out, he actually writes his way through the situation, and uses the plot development as a means to enhance his readers’ relationship with the characters.

HE manages to take characters from romance to comedy, to action, and back without losing the continuity of the characters and their complex relationships.

Dos Santos is a tremendous artist.  His diverse background is tested here.  He needs to show fear, violence, gore, death, love humor, and so much more.  When he shows characters, regardless of serious situation or humorous situation, he manages to imbue his characters with a sense of both continuity and humanity.  He is equally adept to high comedy and high technology.  His detailed weapons, gore, and action scenes are just as well-done as his humorously exaggerated scenes.

It is unfortunate that I cannot recommend this book to everybody.  There is sex, Nazi-ism, racism, significant nudity in sexual and nonsexual contexts, and a lot of references to bizarre sex (scatological fetishes and bestiality).  This is definitely not a book for the easily offended or those with young children.

On the other hand, for an adult reader who wants to meet fascinating characters in situations not encountered in your average mask-and-capes comic, this is an awesome experience.  For readers who have heard of Garth Ennis, and want to see why so many fans regard him as one of the truly mad geniuses of modern comics, this is a great place to start.

Written by: Garth Ennis

Illustrated by: Mark Dos Santos

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