THE COMPLETE SILENCERS Review: Super Criminals Who Are More Than Just Bad Guys

The Silencers is the creation of writer, Fred Van Lente, and artist, Steve Ellis. Originally published by Moonstone, the title eventually moved to Image. Now Dark Horse Comics has collected the entire series in The Complete Silencers, featuring the stories “Black Kiss,” “Powered and Dangerous,” and more.

The Story

In a world where superheroes work hand in hand with law enforcement, the families of organized crime need more than tough guys with guns to protect their interests. To this end, the Provenzano family have recruited a number of “supers” into a group called the Silencers. The books starts out feeling like a hard-edged crime comic with a super-powered twist. After the first chapter, though, all bets are off and Van Lente dashes any and all expectations the reader forms to the ground.

From the beginning, numerous plot threads braid together: the search for the origin of the new drug dubbed “Black Kiss,” one man’s wish for more respect from his family, and another’s plans to retire from the business are there in Chapter 1. Things get more complex and twisted from there. It could easily all become too complicated or fall apart, but the narrative remains cohesive and flows well.

One could call this a super villain book, but that would do a disservice to the characters. Yes they have super powers, and they work for organized crime, but they are not simply “evil” in any black-and-white sense. As we get to know the characters we learn some of their back stories, their struggles, and their dreams. The reader can sympathize with some of them and mourn the terrible turns their lives have taken. Even a character like Hair Trigger, a brash young speedster, proves to be more than he seems on the surface. In the chapter entitled “Spaz,” we get inside his head and see the world as he does. In doing so, we understand how the nature of his powers isolates him as much as people’s assumptions about him do.

The only characters that seem to adhere at all to black-and-white characterization are those referred to as “tights,” the superheroes of the city that we see little of and get to know even less. The one time we see one of them speaking, his hackneyed speech directed at the Cardinal, the Silencers’ leader, is so ludicrous as to cause even the biggest superhero fans to roll their eyes. Therein lies another great strength of the book. For all of the heavy drama and violence, The Silencers has a lot of fun playing with a number of comic book tropes like the superhero headquarters trophy room, alien invasions, and high tech weapons.

The last chapter is a surprising text story giving even more background on the Cardinal. This focus on the seemingly emotionless hitman goes even further to illustrate that he is not so easily categorized as a “bad guy,” and stands on its own as a bizarre and interesting short story.

The Art

At a glance Steve Ellis’ art for this book can seem rough and sketchy. Looking through his work on other projects, one sees that he is a versatile artist capable of illustrating in a number of different styles in different genres. For this title, Ellis has opted for a gritty and seemingly unpolished style that suits the urban setting and the crime genre. A closer look at the art here reveals quite a lot of detail; possibly more than the reader is aware of going through the book.

Just as Van Lente played with comic book tropes, Ellis has his fun, too. The few superheroes that we get to see are drawn as obvious spoofs/homages to characters that we are all familiar with. Readers will likely smirk at the flying fellow with the cape, the silhouette of the figure clinging to a wall, and the red-gloved fist of “Captain What’s-His-Face.” Warranting more than a smirk is the familiar facade of the hero’s “Hall” headquarters, the numerous artifacts inside that hall and its trophy room, and the Super Tactical Response Unit of the police who dress similarly to a famous “Judge.”

What is really striking about Ellis’ art is how it conveys energy, and not just the energy shooting from some characters’ hands. Whether characters are moving in combat, making garish facial expressions, or standing perfectly still, the reader can practically feel a pulse in the book that varies from scene to scene, but never flatlines.


The one and only problem with The Complete Silencers  is that it does not really live up to its title. Yes, Dark Horse has collected all of the Silencers issues ever published along with some bonus material, but it is still an unfinished work. Even without the notes at the end, the reader knows that Fred Van Lente and Steve Ellis have plenty more stories to tell with these fascinating characters and more to reveal about them. If the creators are ever able to give us more Silencers stories, it would definitely be worth reading. The book defies simple categorization just as it does expectations and challenges the reader to rethink any ideas about good and evil, heroism and villainy, and justice and authority.

5 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars




Cover Image via


Jean-Pierre Vidrine hails from the small town of Ville Platte, Louisiana. He started collecting and learning about comic books at the age of 9. He got his Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Louisiana State University. He now lives in Chicago with his wife and cat.


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Categories: Comic Reviews

Author:Jean-Pierre Vidrine

Jean-Pierre Vidrine is a Chicago transplant whose interests include comic books, nostalgia, tattoos, drag, just plain being allowed to be himself. He does his best to be a thoughtful writer.

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