The second round of Renato Jones: Freelancer, created, written, drawn and OWNED (right: in caps) by Kaare Kyle Andrews, is the story of love derailed, and it’s told in Andrews’ frenetic, episodic manner. Don’t look for narrative coherence here: watch recurring characters in rapidly changing locales, pacing the tale in starts and feints.
The opening sequence reprises the final scenes of the first series, ending with Renato Jones as Freelancer swearing to destroy Douglas Bladley by taking all his money. Then, in a flashback, we see Renato as a child meeting Bliss, also as a child; and she swears she’s his “for life.” When we next see her, she’s been dating Bladley, and she complains about his being missing; ditto his money.
Bliss is the daughter of Nicola Chambers, a political rich con man, conning the disenfranchised. “Let’s make America hate again,” he says, echoing you-know-who.
Next, we’re in an airplane, piloted (it seems) by Freelancer. All color drains from the pages as the plane invades protected air space and is shot down. Freelancer, however, survives and lands intact. He goes after a armored character with “WA” on his chest. Perhaps Chambers’ retinue?
The airplane crash, it develops — by inference, none of the narrative is straightforward chronology — is seen as a terrorist attack, and Chambers is spirited away by his bodyguards, despite his demanding that they find his daughter and take her with them.
She, however, is somehow in the clutches of WA. Freelancer rescues her, and they run off together, still depicted in stark enigmatic black-and-white, forms and features only partially depicted, the shadowy parts, the rest, vanishing into a sea of white space.
When WA catches up, Renator — minus his Freelancer mask — dispatches him with Freelancer’s slogan, “Choke on this”—usually accompanied by his flashing a monstrous heavy-duty hand-held weapon.
Renato takes Bliss “home.” There, she pleads — no more masks, no more lying. She strips herself naked and approaches Rentao.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” she says, stroking his face — and color comes in again to the pages.
Two solid black pages intervene before she can kiss him. Renato muses, “It’s always been you.”
And then — perhaps they make love. Probably not (as you’ll see). Renato’s musing continues, white lettering on a black ground: “We don’t just fall into one another — we explode. Nothing matters. Nothing but you.”
Then a flashback to his youth as a student, studying his fate. Tutored by an old bearded man, Renato sees Bliss’ name on a list of miscreant rich guys.
And then we’re back. They haven’t been making love. Renato stops Bliss before they kiss. “I can’t,” he says and leaves, back to his masked life as Freelancer.
And Nicola Chambers, having survived the deadly terror attack, is sworn in as President of the United States, Bliss at his side.
What will become of Chambers, who is surely one of those the Freelancer has been bred to dispose of. And Bliss? And the supposed love between her and Renato?
That’ll being us back.
But the delight in reading this book — as in the first series of Andrews’ creation—is in encountering and sorting your way through the visual episodic manner of his storytelling. There are no completed episodes in Andrews: every episode is interrupted by another episode. Crammed with close-ups and soaked in black, the pictures barely tell the story. Only in retrospect, looking back over the trail of pictorial episodes, can we discern a storyline.
The story is now up to the fourth issue of this title, with only one more issue to go to finish “the second round.” Even if you can find only one issue of the series, it’ll be worth your time to experience Andrews’ wild manner.
Narrative breakdown and panel composition carry the story even as they interrupt it. And Andrews deploys color and pagination for added effect. If you want to know what comics can be, here’s a place to get a few clues.