When the world’s best killer needs protection, who does he turn to? The twenty other best killers in the world, obviously.
Writer Kyle Starks and artist Erica Henderson come together for hilarity and hitmen with Assassin Nation from Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment. Debuting March 13, Assassin Nation is about a group of assassins who have to align themselves with one another to figure out who is trying to murder their boss as well as themselves.
Newsarama chatted up Starks about the upcoming series and what’s so funny about killing.
Newsarama: Kyle, so, at the beginning of Assassin Nation, it's almost like a murder mystery with top killer Maxwell Bishop looking for revenge for the death of his husband. What can you tell us about Maxwell that makes him the top killer in the world and how determined he is for retribution?
Kyle Starks: Max is actually retired here. He's the second former best killer in the world, with Rankin being the first. It's revealed, I think, in issue two that he retired after his husband was murdered out of depression and guilt. He replaced Rankin as the number one assassin after Rankin was forced to retire when he took over the third largest crime family in town.
But in regards to his prior career, I think what made Max especially effective as a killer would be his efficiency and planning. I mean, he's also very good at killing people in general but he's a lot more of a sort of careful strategist with great skills then a bust down the door and unleash hell kind of guy.
Your current number one top killer is Fernando who is good at everything and super sexy and confident too. Fernando is a comet that crashes into your heart and then shoots it a bunch. Fernando is the top killer because he is the absolute best, currently, at making the murders.
Nrama: This is your first time working with Erica Henderson. What brought you two together?
Starks: Erica and I met a long time ago at a convention and became fast friends and, I don't want to speak for her, but I have always wanted to work with her from day one. We share a real love for 80s genre film and action cinema so it was sort of inevitable, I think? And it had to be a big action murder book. It was just meant to be.
Nrama: What do you think is the most difficult part of trying to make murder, you know, funny?
Starks: I think anything can be funny if funny people are doing whatever that anything might be. The most difficult part, for me, is finding the balance where the humor doesn't overpower anything else and vice versa. You pick and choose when it's time to instill humor or when there's a situation that would benefit from levity. Like I said earlier, I grew up on 1980s action films and for me a staple of all those great ones is that they always inserted a little humor at some point and felt like a sweet treat. I try to keep that spirit alive.
Nrama: The other big story at play is the attempt of Boss Rankin's life, and the catalyst for all these killers coming together, how would you describe Rankin and how these other assassins see him, despite now in the service of providing protection?
Starks: I think to all the other killers, first and foremost, Rankin is the G.O.A.T.. He's the Michael Jordan of murders. But, I think also he's for sure seen as super petty and someone maybe a little too obsessed with being recognized for being as good as he was. So I think they definitely respect him or at least his skillset but I don't think they particularly like him as a person. I don't want to make two sports references in one answer but because of the latter maybe he's seen a little bit more as a Lebron James than a Michael Jordan.
Nrama: What takes precedence in the storytelling for Assassin Nation: humor or the killing?
Starks: Humor can be so subjective I don't think you can really go into a think wanting to focus heavily on that. You want to tell a good story and then hopefully, if it's your intention, give it a humor element too.
I get asked this type of thing a lot and like I want to tell a good story, not make a good comedy, if that makes sense. For me a good story is a little funny too, but it's also a little dramatic, it hopefully has something past face value. But all that being said, the things I like are entertaining and most of all I hope Assassin Nation is that.
Nrama: Are you planning for this to be an ongoing or a limited series because eventually, they all have to die, right?
Starks: I think these days publishers like for you to avoid answering these types of questions because they can affect continued sales but it's definitely a mini-series. Erica has a lot of other obligations forthcoming and we had a small window to work together and we got to make something pretty fun. And they're all going to die, yes. Er. Maybe? Probably? Prossibly.
Nrama: Okay, lastly, if you had a killer moniker, what would it be?
Starks: Mine would be MurderBeard and Erica would be Lady Die. She can veto that. I literally just made them up.