The Assignment: Trans for Shock Value

The Assignment #1 cover by Jef

I am flabbergasted that anyone thought publishing The Assignment was a good idea these days. But it’s a tie-in to a movie already made (filmed November 2015, supposedly to be released in the US this year) starring Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver, and Titan Comics loves its licensed comics.

This was a comic before it was a film, published in France (although the first draft of the script, according to Wikipedia, was in 1978, and that makes a lot more sense, considering the content). It’s co-written by Denis Hamill and Walter Hill (director of 48 Hrs. and The Warriors); Hill also directed the movie, previously called (Re)Assignment. The Assignment comic, as published in English, is adapted by Matz, illustrated by Jef, and translated by Charles Ardai.

The story, which Hill thinks is “lurid, comic-booky” but not “offensive”, is simply this: a hitman kills a fashion designer, which pisses off his sister. She’s a mad doctor, who in revenge, kidnaps the hitman and surgically makes him into a woman. Because, as we’re told in issue #2,

I could have killed you, but that would have been too simple. Too kind. I preferred to leave you a permanent reminder of the terrible crime you committed, by taking some things away from you, and adding others.

It’s easy to read this as “Being a woman is worse than being dead.” The crazy surgeon, by the way, is being interviewed in her cell by some kind of psychiatrist (I’m guessing), in case you hadn’t seen that scene before. She’s actually questioned about why not go after the guy who ordered the hit on her brother, since he owed them a lot of money, who would be the person actually responsible. There’s some handwaving about how that would have been too hard and how Frank was someone to be admired.

Now, there was not much thought put into all of this, clearly. It’s an excuse, first, to show the changed Frank frequently topless (to be fair, we see the male version naked once too). There’s also plenty of overwrought narration about what a tough guy he is and the rules of the life of a hitman.

Once transformed, for some reason, Frank is dressed in a low-cut red dress and high heels. The excuse is that those are the clothes left for her, I suppose (it’s not actually covered), but he’s resourceful enough to find something else instead of teetering around. Of course, there’s an attempted rape scene, to justify more topless peek shots and some violence, and of course, the female version of Frank is gorgeous.

Other women don’t come off well, unsurprisingly. Aside from the insane surgeon, issue #1 has a completely unrealistic hottie, wearing a visible push-up bra under a crop top and skin-tight pants, who picks up Frank in a bar before the change. The character keeps saying how she doesn’t like to waste time, so she doesn’t need conversation before they have sex. This is nothing but a male fantasy, and based on the clothing, one that’s about two decades old. Then again, he’s wearing a white suit with a black shirt, circa 1979.

The storytelling is leisurely, with the change the reader is presumably waiting to see not happening until two-thirds of the way through the double-sized first issue so we’d have time first for the sex scene and a shootout.

The Assignment is beautifully illustrated and softly colored in detailed European style. It’s just that the story is so vile, exploitative, and thoughtless. And insulting to trans people. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)

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