Author/illustrator Nicolas Petrimaux was born in Normandy, France, but was influenced early in life by American movies of the 1980s. This inspiration is transparent as the cover calls this book “Act One” and the book includes end credits. Gunning for Ramirez aims for a stylized version of the 80s, complete with referential jokes (a red leather jacket à la Michael Jackson in Thriller from the company Jack’s Sons worn by model Gwen Parker) and fake product advertisements between issues showcasing a love of the style of the time. While these details shine, the story itself is rather thin at times, relying on the mysterious question of who Ramirez really is to keep you reading along.
The story opens in an Arizona police interrogation room in 1987, with plenty of tropes thrown in to immediately place you there: hardboiled cops, lots of people smoking, big cars, and a fairly muted color scheme. It leans hard into the 80s action movie vibe Petrimaux is going for. The story revolves around Jacques Ramirez, an appliance repair man for Robotop who is universally beloved by his colleagues and also happens to be mute (which will come up repeatedly). One day he is spotted by two members of the largest drug cartel in Paso Del Rio who believe he’s the assassin who double-crossed their mob boss Hector Rodriguez. Jacques then crosses paths with a movie star, Chelsea Tyler, and her partner in crime/romance Dakota Smith, who are on the run from police after an “incident” on a movie set and several robberies after. The following 100-odd pages are full of car chases, questions of mistaken identity, bloody shoot outs and several big explosions with a few moments of levity to cut through some of the violence and language.
The story itself is not treading any new ground for a crime story with a mistaken identity twist. The most disappointing facet may be the two female characters, who are relegated to little more than scantily-clad-females-of-unrealistic-proportions, which does fit in with the aesthetic of many 80s action movies, but a 21st century reader expects that women characters will also have personalities.
Petrimaux’s art is textured and detailed, but not without faults. When you look at the cars, buildings and backgrounds, they’re impressive. But one of the biggest clues as to who the mysterious ‘Ramirez’ is involves a birthmark on his face that I personally had trouble catching initially because of the way color and shading are used throughout the book. It was supposed to be a major clue and I had to double back to see what I had missed. There were times this reminded me of Rob Guillory’s art in Chew, but with less whimsy.
The thing holding Gunning for Ramirez back is its inability to decide if it wants to crack jokes and be Deadpool style tongue-in-cheek or a straightforward, gritty Mexican crime drama like Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy, which it lists as a direct influence.
Image Comics rated this M and it is best suited for the over-18 crowd. There is violence, gore, profanity, and some nudity and consensual sex. This book is also trying to evoke a certain type of cinematic feel and I do not know if there will much interest from those too young to have experienced those films. This is supposed to be volume one of a three-part series, but I have a hard time envisioning this holding a reader’s attention for three volumes. Originally published by Glenat Comics, Image has published this translation for English-speaking audiences. Glenat seems to have volume 2 (or Act 2) published, but we are still waiting for the English translation.
Gunning for Ramirez, vol. 1
By Nicolas Petrimaux
Publisher Age Rating: 18+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation: French