Comic book writer Christopher Golden is best known for his work on Hellboy. Ironically, Ron Perlman, the actor who plays Clay in the TV series, also played the title character in the Hellboy I and II movies. Golden is a seasoned comic book writer and structures the action of the story clearly; however, this issue struggles to live up to the power and intelligence of Kurt Sutter’s TV show dialogue. Issue #5’s dialogue is, for the most part, stilted and noticeably different from the TV show, minus a few standout sections where lines are taking directly from the show. Sutter has talked openly about using Shakespeare’s Hamlet as inspiration for SOA and does an excellent job slowly carving out history and character dynamics not often matched on screen. A 5-issue series does not leave much room to create the same dynamics, and I think would, therefore, be served better by not trying to be standalone pieces but rather alternative directions for the show, or a prequel to the show.
There are four different covers for this issue. Garry Brown’s cover done in colored sketches most visually resembles the gritty TV show. The second and third covers are variants on copyrighted show photography, and the final is a BOOM! Studios exclusive character mug shot; the latter being a nice touch. Damian Couceiro’s story artwork is well drawn and clean, but perhaps too clean and stereotypical. Brown’s cover artwork is a better visual representation of the show than the comic book story art. SOA is such a unique show that I wanted the comic to mirror that quality in writing and artwork, neither of which was fully accomplished.
Despite this, I am very interested to see where the series will go. Having not seen any of the current Season 6, I enjoyed reading about the new character Kendra and her story. I loved that Golden spends more time on side characters Tig and Chibs than they are typically given on the show. He does an excellent job keeping the main characters interwoven and a part of the story while making it clear that this issue/series will focus more on the ensemble.
Issue #5 ends on a cliffhanger that is foreseeable on the second to last page. Therefore, the last series of shots felt redundant. The cliffhanger would have been more gut wrenching and climactic had it ended on the close-up of spiked wood. This criticism is nitpicky, but the comic is based on such a well-loved TV show know for its meticulous nature, it does itself a disservice not to shoot for equal standards. Without the equalit,y it ends up feeling more like fanfiction.