Cannonball 40: Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

Road to Perdition (Graphic Novel)Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I watched the film version first, so maybe I’m a little biased, but I wasn’t too terribly impressed by this graphic novel. I mean, it was pretty good, and the artwork was excellent, but it just didn’t have the same impact on me as the film did.

Road to Perdition is a graphic novel about Michael O’Sullivan, an enforcer for the Looneys, an Irish mob family. The Looneys betray Michael and his vengeance is great. Along with his son, Michael Jr., he takes his revenge on the Looney family for what they’ve done to his. Collins does a fair job of drawing real people from that era into his story, and it’s clear that he did a lot of research.

The story itself is a stock vengeance tale — it’s always entertaining to see the bad guys get their due. But the pacing of the novel felt a little rushed to me. I couldn’t get attached to any of the characters because the action unfolded so swiftly, with little development of the characters.

The ending of the movie is significantly different from the ending of the novel. While I kind of liked the novel’s ending, I can see why they changed it for the film — the ending they chose is better suited to the movie they made.

Maybe I would’ve enjoyed the graphic novel more if the edition I read hadn’t included a long preface by the author. It reminded my of Chuck Palahniuk’s afterword in Fight Club, where he basically talks about what an amazing job he did writing this novel. While I can understand and appreciate that Collins poured a lot of passion and energy into this project, it doesn’t help me to enjoy it more to see him boasting about himself and getting high on his own opinion of what he considers his vast talent.

It reminds me of this scene in one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Center Stage. During a rehearsal, the director of the ballet tels the prima ballerina, “I need to see the movement, not the effort behind it.”

Overall, I thought it was a solid graphic novel, and worth reading. It just didn’t blow me away the way Michael O’Sullivan kicking down a door and shoving a gun in my face should have.

View all my reviews


  1. […] you want to experience Road to Perdition, I’d recommend the movie over the graphic novel. I saw the movie first, and I liked it […]

  2. Leaving aside your opinion about the graphic novel, I would like to clarify something. Lately I’ve had several reviews complaining about introductions I’ve written. I’ve also had praise for those intros, but that’s horse-racing. I would point out two things: writing the PERDITION intro was the editor’s idea, not mine…every intro I’ve written has been at the request of an editor wanting to give some added value to a new edition of the book (PERDITION originally had no intro); and if you find the intro uninteresting or off-putting, skip it. The book is the book, and an intro like mine is a bonus feature. I don’t believe I boasted or spoke of my “vast talent,” although in my opinion a good reviewer making such a charge would provide a quote or two to back it up.

    Whether the book or the movie is better is to me a moot point. Some like one, some like the other, and some like both. Often which version you encounter first is the preferred one. But it is beyond argument that the movie would not exist without the book, and even when a film is “better” than the book it adapts, the book has a certain integrity that can’t (or in my opinion shouldn’t) be denied it. I find it lazy criticism to always enter into a knee-jerk comparison of a book and the film that came from it, as if automatically it’s a contest. The two mediums are very different. I like the movie very much. But I will say that among the things I hear most often — including from a guy named Spielberg (not boasting — that’s name-dropping) — is that my ending is stronger.

    I agree with that view, with reservations. When the screenplay dropped the narration by the adult Michael (originally Jack Lemmon would have played him), the punchline of Michael’s latterday redemption became impossible for the film to depict.

    Thank you for giving my book some attention.

    • Jelinas Said:

      Thank you, Mr. Collins, for taking the time to respond to my review. I honestly do appreciate that you took the time to respond to what I’d written instead of just dismissing it as the uneducated opinion of a Philistine. It’s to your credit that you take your readers’ responses seriously and care so much about your work.

      About the intro, I could easily have skipped it, but if I were in the habit of skipping parts of books I didn’t like just because I didn’t like them, I probably wouldn’t read many books. I like to approach every book — introductions and forewords and epilogues and afterwords and all — as a whole. But I suppose you’re right; it’s kind of the editor who makes that call. I’m guessing s/he asked you for something specific, and you gave it to him/her. You’re right: I didn’t think about that when I read it, which might be why I interpreted the tenor of the intro to be boastful.

      And I’ll take the hit for not providing quotes to show what I meant. There are two reasons for that: 1. When I read a review that’s loaded with quotes, I tend to skim because, if I’d wanted to read the book, I’d just read the book. I think I’ve read too many reviews where people quoted passages of books with no point other than to say, “I liked this part,” or “I didn’t like that part,” which is why I don’t like to do that in my own reviews. 2. I actually checked your book out of the library, and I had to return it before I had a chance to write up the review.

      I’ll also admit that my opinion of the intro may have been unduly influenced by the bad taste in my mouth after reading the Chuck Palahniuk afterword to Fight Club (linked in the body of the review. Read his afterword, and see if that influences your opinion of his book). There was a similar vibe to it, and if I just projected it there, I apologize.

      I’d also like to point out that I liked the ending of your novel. I can just see why they couldn’t translate it to the silver screen, which was why I assumed they changed the ending for the film.

      And I want to explain that the reason I came out of the gate comparing the book to the movie is that I saw the movie first, and it was bound to influence my view of the book. Most of the people who read my blog are more movie buffs than bookworms, so I thought it’d be fair to assume that they’d have seen the movie first, too. The reason the book didn’t impact me as much as it might have is that I didn’t read it before watching the film. I don’t think that part is lazy criticism. There were plenty of parts of my review that I would say were legitimately lazy, and I’ll take that criticism like a good girl, but I’ll stand by my decision to compare the two. It’s a specific viewpoint, to be sure, but I think it’s a real one.

      That was also why, at the end of my review, I said I’d be interested in hearing the opinion of someone who’d read the book first and then saw the movie. I didn’t think I’d be getting the opinion of someone who wrote the book first and then saw the movie, which is much more than I expected.

      Nobody’s saying that your novel doesn’t deserve props. I know it’s won a bunch of awards and accolades, and rightfully so. I liked the novel and said it was worth reading. Thanks for creating, and for being passionate about your craft.

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

    You might want to take a look at my prose sequels, ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE. There are also two other graphic novels: ROAD TO PERDITION 2: ON THE ROAD and the recently published RETURN TO PERDITION.

    Happy holidays.

  4. Jelinas Said:

    I’ve added the books you suggested to my reading list. Cheers, and happy holidays!

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