SPOILERS BELOW (for Issue #1)
Becoming a recluse, Richard decides to end his own life, deciding it was the only way to end his cursed life. He starts to make his suicide attempt by jumping off a bridge, when a young woman named Alice stops him. Alice is a ghost who has made her way over from the other side, using Richard as a doorway. Not long after she appears and saves Richard’s life, an evil, red, skull-faced entity appears and tries to kill Richard. The experience sends Richard on the run – not only in fear of his life, but to discover answers behind his mysterious gift.
Neil Gibson is responsible for the brilliant set-up in Issue #1. He lays out the premise, brings the reader in, and makes them feel every bit of Richard’s sadness and loneliness, and carries them through to the twist at the end, with the appearance of Alice. Even though Gibson moves from writing the first issue to editing the last five issues, passing the writing torch to Dan Watters is seamless and hardly noticeable, except for the different names in the credits. Nothing is lacking or left behind in the change of writers, which spotlights the real talent of the creative minds behind the project.
From issue to issue, Richard’s character continues to evolve through various conflicts, hurdling obstacles that most would fail to clear. As the mystery deepens, the storyline grows increasingly complex, yet remains easy to follow while the reader yearns for explanation and resolution (all in a positive way). And, with brilliantly placed cliffhangers at the end of each issue, it’s hard to battle that need to keep reading, to discover what exactly is happening to Richard and why. Another sign of brilliance on the part of the creators.
The art only lends to the captivating storytelling. Caspar Wijingaard (pencils/inks) and Jan Wijingaard (colors) worked on all six issues, and the beauty in each panel shines through. The detail in the characters’ faces bring them all to life, expressing a variety of emotions with even a single glance. The immaculate scenes provide more than just background, but helps to pull the reader into the story. One mustn’t forget the lettering (Jim Campbell), which fits the story and art perfectly, right down to the almost hilarious speeches of the villain of all villains, Bloodyman.
Tortured Life is a comic book series I won’t soon forget. The creepy factor is sufficient enough to make me wonder if Bloodyman is right behind me, ready to rip my head off, and the glimpses of the afterlife will spook me for years. This is a must-read series for any lover of horror and supernatural comics.