A History of Violence

ISBN: 1563893673
ISBN 13: 9781563893674
By: John Wagner Vince Locke

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About this book

A new edition of the hard-hitting graphic novel that inspired the Academy Award-nominated 2005 motion picture starring Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris and William Hurt.In this suspenseful crime story, Tom McKenna is a family man who becomes an instant media celebrity when he thwarts a robbery at his own diner – a robbery attempted by wanted murderers. McKenna’s newfound fame draws the attention of a group of merciless mobsters who have been looking to settle a score with him for over 20 years. Now, as the killers descend upon his small town in Middle America, the Brooklyn native must face the actions of his youth and relive his past history of violence as he attempts to salvage the life he has built and keep his family out of harm’s way.

Reader's Thoughts


Bukunya…udah baca.Filmnya…belum nonton.Kekerasan tidak hanya diawali dari kekerasan, tapi kadang dimulai dari suatu kebaikan. Niat Joey yang ingin membantu neneknya malah membuatnya terlibat dalam kekerasan yang tidak ada akhirnya. Ketika dua buronan kejam menyerang di suatu kota kecil, secara perlahan sejarah kelam kekerasan masa lalu Tom McKenna alias Joey mulai terkuak. Buku ini sudah difilmkan dengan judul yang sama dan dibintangi oleh Viggo Mortensen dan Ed Harris, my favorite villain. Film ini juga dinominasikan untuk Palm d’Or di Cannes Film Festival tahun 2005. Secara keseluruhan, graphic novel ini bagus. Karena sang illustrator, Vince Locke, menggambar gaya arsiran yang sangat gue suka. Mungkin bagi beberapa orang gambarnya terlalu rumit dan Amerika sekali. Tapi itu masalah selera ya. Coba untuk dinikmati aja :DUntuk cerita…well…gue setuju dengan tema yang ingin disampaikan oleh buku ini. Bahwa siapa yang menabur angin, akan menuai badai. Kekerasan bukan jawaban atas kekerasan. Balas dendam hanya akan membuat kita makin sakit berlipat ganda. Tapi apakah kita akan menerima begitu saja setelah disakiti, tentu saja tidak. Pasti ada cara untuk mengatasinya tanpa kekerasan. Kekerasan bukan satu-satunya jawaban. And you know what…that makes life is more interesting. p.sOh ya sempatkan untuk membaca pendahuluan yang ditulis oleh John Wagner di buku ini. Baru kali ini gue membaca pendahuluan yang sedemikian menarik atau bisa dibilang…menegangkan.


A brisk read, and I'm still not convinced John Wagner is anything more than a consistent journeyman writer. However, the escalation of the violent acts, coupled with the reality the book takes care to ground the reader in, really pays off with the final shock. I'm not convinced that it bears thinking about too closely, and the conclusion is a bit pat, but it's carefully constructed.I've never been a fan of Vince Locke's art-- he is an uncomfortable half-way house between Guy Davis and John Ridgeway, and some of his characters are only differentiated by their hairstyle. In fact, near the beginning of chapter two there is an unfortunate moment when vague scripting coupled with unclear storytelling makes it all to easy to get the wrong impression of a major plot point for several pages.I wavered about whether this deserves a three or a four. In the end I think it's ultimately too throwaway for anything more than a three, but it nearly gains an extra star for being the first comic book ever to give me a nightmare.


Being stories of "just normal people - like you and me", the kind of tales usually reserved for kitchen sink dramas, A History of Violence has to it's credit the frantic pace in which stuff happens and how the aforementioned violence scalates in pretty imaginative ways. Save for chapter two, gracely devoted to a lenghty flashback that ties together the entire argument, everything gets on it's tracks nice and swiftly. However, Tom McKenna has his own tints of superheroic feats, he's actually not a regular guy, and blessed he is by not being one, given the twisting spins he has to face.However, there's something too quick around all this. It's an easy-to-read GN, and you can get through it in a course of an afternoon, but character development leaves a lot to be desired (or at least, to be read), and the cast doesn't seem to fret a lot by watching ol' McKenna gunfighting against the New York italian mob or getting involved in a mildly intrincated web of lies, deceit and murder. Maybe it is because this is A History of Violence, not A History of People Getting Concerned About Death, Gunshots and Possible Repercutions.Sloppy review. This is no place to talk about this, but the movie improves considerably in a lot of these departments.


Stayed up all night reading this, and now that it's over I wish I hadn't. It started out alright I guess, with sort of a western/cape fear feel, but the stilted comic book dialogue didn't grip me and I found the crosshatching art claustrophobic (probably deliberate) and unfocused, sort of like a muddy snowstorm.But this book became truly stupid after the first act- after an okay setup nothing but joyless, nihilistic violence happens, in a sort of bastard child of Death Wish 3 and Saw IV way. I'm not really interested in violence for violence sake, and the cynical reasons for including so much of it in this book is not up to snuff. This book is for teenagers and revenge-fantasy-induced lunch breaks.I should've picked up the fact that all the blurbs on the book were for the Cronenberg movie, not the book itself. Who knows, maybe the movie is better, since they changed the plot considerably.

Robert Kristoffersen

Everybody remembers the film adaption of this graphic novel from Director David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, but few know of its graphic novel counterpart. The original book, written by John Wagner, best known for the creation of Judge Dredd, and drawn by Vince Locke, of Sandman and Batman fame, details the life of Tom McKenna or Joey, owner of a Michigan diner and of a secret past.The story begins its history of violence with the murder of two hitchhikers. A random and brutal act of violence that is re-payed shortly but Tom. Early in the story, Tom is portrayed as this small town, family man who owns a diner. Your typical blue collar worker, just trying to make a living and support his family. Shortly, Tom proves that he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, and that he can do it with intellect and some skill. In small town USA, people don’t die this way and more, simple men don’t respond with a set of skills that most don’t have. In short, Tom kills one of them and injures the other greatly. This event brings him notoriety and a trio of people from the past that come to investigate. Including a man named John Torrino.The story that unfolds takes the reader back to Brooklyn, when Tom was known as Joey, and where he got even for the death of a friend, Steve. Along with his buddy, Richie, the pair hash a plan to make quick cash and strike a blow to the mob. They do just that, but that doesn't mean there aren't repercussions. What happens to Richie in the aftermath, revealed toward the end of the story, still gives me chills. Joey has to run, and slowly takes on a new identity with the nest egg he had. The final act of the story take Tom back to Brooklyn to settle this once and for all.In a culture of violence, the culture that American’s and a lot of other people live in, the violence here is shocking. It’s more creative, especially as the character of Richie is concerned. Locke’s stark visualizations make it all the more impactful, some of these images will stay with you long after you've read the last panel and the book is closed. This is a book that also proves death doesn't have to be dealt at a distance to be effective. If you’re cunning enough, it can have a great impact on events unfolding in the story, as well as add to shock value. Locke’s ability to take this to small town U.S.A. and make it realistic is a credit to his keen writing ability. These mobsters aren’t just the murdering type, but they play within the rules too, making this more real, and frightening to a small town resident like me.Wagner and Locke have created a really affecting novel, one that speaks to a culture of violence. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can relate to this book, and with the events of yesterday, it hits home more than ever. A must read for sure!

Federiken Masters

Antes que nada: maldigo al "Deleted Member" imbécil que estuvo borrando al boleo un montón de ediciones en castellano y francés de comics yanquis (y andá a saber qué otras cosas habrá eliminado también ese idiota irrastreable).Ahora sí: muy pero muy buena historia, con un dibujo más que digno, aunque el giro gore del final me resultó un tanto chocante y desubicado (literalmente). Lo bueno es que ahora ya estoy libre para ver la peli sin culpa alguna, a ver cuándo me hago tiempo.

Sarah Payok

When I first saw the David Cronenberg film, A History of Violence, based on this graphic novel, I knew nothing of the book. I found the movie deeply disturbing and as a result, once I learned about the book, I was a bit apprehensive about reading it. I already knew the topic and did not feel any driving need to become disturbed again by the same material. However, I picked the book up this week on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. The things in the movie that disturbed me to such an extent are not in the book and while the book is brutal, it also gives a strong sense of what a kind, compelling man Tom McKenna is and this really helps to understand how he has such a brutal past.I am always interested in the intersection between films and books and in this case, I really don't think the two have much impact on each other. I read recently that when Cronenberg was working on the movie, it wasn't until he saw a later edition of the screenplay that he even realized it was adapted from a book. They really are two separate entities. If I had not seen the movie years ago in the theatre, I do not think I'd have any driving desire to do so now after reading this. The book is complete and left me with no desire to see the story carried on further. The story itself is timeless and would probably be well served in any format, whether film or book, comic or prose.

Skipper Ritchotte

I liked the movie a lot more. Is that wrong? Where the movie seemed to say beneath it all that Violence Begets Violence, and held incredible tension and nuance of character (except for William Hurt's silly gangster portrayal), the graphic novel mostly delivers unnuanced shock for shock's sake. I will say that I'll never forget the gruesome ending in the novel, which was completely and utterly different than the Cronenberg flick. Cannot be unseen. Interesting afternoon reading.


Really 4.5I read this because I saw the movie. It starts out the same--nice small-town diner-owner foils a robbery from some really violent guys. Achieves a measure of fame. Which attracts some mob guys from New York who think that he's someone who did them wrong a long time ago. In the book, there's the compelling point where he's missing half a finger, and the mob guy kept the other half of the finger of the guy done him wrong. But diner-owner insists it's a mistaken identity. The movie does a better job of keeping us doubting whether he's really the guy. But the back-story in the book is better. As a kid, he had a buddy who wanted to get back at the mob, and who convinced him that they could pull off a robbery, helping get a needed operation for grandmother raising him. (In the movie, he was more of a professional gangster type.) The book does a good job of keeping the suspense of how he's going to get out of it. It goes wrong at the end, though, with just a gross-out sicko mob guy, son of the original gangster killed in the robbery, having tortured the buddy for 20 years, and starting in on the new guy with drills, chain-saws, etc. The art wasn't fabulous, but did catch some gritty atmosphere.


I read A History of Violence over the course of the weekend. I typically read graphic novels in one sitting if I can, but this was a novel I had to take in smaller bites. The introduction gives a sporadic account of how John Wagner came up with the idea for the novel's underlying threads. Without giving anything away, he provides the reader an idea that this book will be unsettling because it speaks to the ideas of "What if..." that plaque us in relationships. What if I found out that my husband was a mass murderer or that people thought I was someone I'm not. In a case of supposedly mistaken identity, Tom McKenna is an everyman character who has carved a quiet life in a small town. The sense of relationships between him, his family, and those out to kill him are held together so delicately. There is an image of a spider in a web on one of the panels, and Tom is someone faded with his back to the window pane the reader is "looking" through. Later he is compared to a fly being trapped in a spider's web. It is interesting to see how that image plays out because it brings up the idea that there are two types of people: the flies and spiders. But with the violence that plays into this novel, it makes me wonder if Tom really is a fly or if he is a spider threatened in his territory.I encourage you to read this novel with an open mind. It is one you may want to read through a time or two because the themes are quite dense. It questions the integrity of a marriage, the understanding of children in a grown-up world, what makes a man, what is power, is there necessary violence, and much more. It is a book I read as a bedtime read, which I would not encourage because I found my mind continuing to digest the book long after I found a stopping place.


Die Gewalt ist der Dreh- und AngelpunktMan sollte schon mit etwas rechnen, wenn ein Comic mit dem Titel "A History of Violence" daherkommt. Wagner, 2000AD- und Judge-Dredd-Altmeister, schon immer nicht gerade für seine Kuschelcomics bekannt, zeigt sich hier aber von seiner ernsteren Seite. Während bei Judge Dredd die Gewalt meist humorisiert ist und gegen Bösewichter, die es eh nicht anders verdienen, geht, wird in diesem Titel ein Mensch gezeigt, der in die Mühlen der Mafia gerät. Was man diesem Comic bestimmt nicht vorwerfen kann, ist, dass er Gewalt verharmlost - hier werden tatsächlich die Folgen einer ewigen Gewaltspirale schonungslos dargestellt.Die Kugelschreiberzeichnungen mögen nicht jedermanns Sache sein, geben aber dem Comic einen ganz eigenen Charakter. Gegen Ende tauchen hier Szenen auf, die einen sehr unruhig lassen werden ob ihrer schonungslosen Darstellung menschlicher Perversität, und definitiv nichts für Leute mit schwachen Nerven sind - und ich rede hier nicht von hirnlosem blutspritz-Geballer oder so.Wer Action sucht, ist fehlt am Platz. Wer einen spannenden, auf echt wirkenden Charakteren aufgebauten Comic mit Tiefgang und einer echten Message sucht, der kein Blatt vor den Mund nimmt, liegt hier richtig.


This graphic novel, basis for the film of the same name, is very well done.The basic story is that a small town diner's owner handily thwarts two stone cold killers who are attempting to rob his diner and plan to kill him. This draws media attention, attention which leads to a criminal act that he committed against the NY mob in his youth coming back to haunt him. The story is well done and captures the sudden, jarring nature of violence and a past that wil not stay buried. And the drawing in the book perfect.Looking at the differences between the book and the movie is interesting: there are things that I prefer about BOTH. I enjoyed the way that the graphic novel flashed back to show the the events that start the story but I have a little trouble believing that one jarring, violent act committed decades before would provide the skills used by the lead character later in the book. I felt that the movie's change to make the lead a person with a long history of extreme violence made a little more sense.Still, this is a gripping story and very well worth reading.


It's tough to review this book having seen the movie first except to say that despite my respect for Cronenberg the movie was, in my eyes, a massive failure at portraying the events laid out in this graphic novel. The Vision alone is so vastly different: the art here is so gritty and perfectly sets the tone and atmosphere for the coming and occurring violence; the story flows much better here, and takes its time unfolding while still keeping a straight pace (where I felt that the film seemed to proceed painfully slowly filling minutes with what could have been done in seconds, making it feel watered down and empty); and the characters seem much more realistic - which I understand is tough when you're casting actors, but sometimes you can't help but see the celebrity in the roles they play.I would like to say the story was predictable, which was my main qualm with the story itself, but even that's difficult to claim knowing full well what was going to happen before even opening the cover. I've seen enough movies and read enough books, though, that this isn't really the only time one of these cases-of-mistaken-identity-turns-out-to-be-not-so-mistaken type things has happened.Overall, the art, writing and direction earned it a 5; however, the story earned brought it down to a 4 and, unfortunately, the movie taints it to a 3.


tapered off into an action flick.


** spoiler alert ** I came to this novel out of a curiosity to see how closely Cronenberg stuck to the original graphic novel for his film adaptation. Of course, having seen the film I was aware of some of the story's big revelations although there are some significant differences between Wagner's original and the picture, and so it did not have some of the surprise factor that I am sure grabbed readers when it was first published.Really the thing that struck me most reading this was how much I liked Locke's frenetic, line art. Much of the story is action and this anxious style is both expressive of emotion and of movement, while lending the story a nice gritty feeling that fit the tone of the story perfectly.As for that story - it moves at a fair clip making it a very fast, page-turning read. The story is split into three segments, each of which have distinct tones and journeys for the main character - family man Tom who begins the story thwarting a robbery attempt at his diner and becoming something of a hometown hero.It is the first segment of the novel that Cronenberg's film stuck to most closely and with good reason - the story does a good job of cultivating a sense of mystery about the men who turn up in Tom's diner and in building a sense of anticipation for its revelations (even if I did find them to be ultimately disappointing).The second segment, in which Tom relates his past to his family, was the least familiar part of the novel to me and felt overly simple and at points downright corny - particularly when his motive for doing what he did is revealed. Those expecting the ambiguity of the film will be disappointed, as will those who expect some sort of struggle to accept these revelations from the character's family.The story ends with a segment that fell somewhere between the first and the second in terms of my enjoyment and that does a decent job of tying everything up.All in all, I am glad I gave the novel a try as I did appreciate the striking artwork and the build-up of tension in the first third of the story. While I did end up feeling that Cronenberg's film was more effective than the source material it was drawn from, it did strike me that it was through the removal of some of the cornier aspects of the story and that it did stay true to the premise of the story - namely that we could live with someone for years and never truly know them. While I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly, it is a fast and interesting read.

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