MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Oh wow. Look, I am not too terribly squeamish. I don’t get super upset at much. I grew up in the era of the internet where edgy content reigned supreme. But this comic... this comic was a lot to take in for me. While the book is artistic, incredibly detailed, and creative in both its use of paneling and art, the whole thing just feels a bit self-indulgent and creepy. While I am all for the exploration of stories from different perspectives, the ideas of centering a story around the ritualistic sacrifice of young women, just barely pubescent, to an offscreen god feels a touch voyeuristic.
Positively, the world building is creepy and fantastic. It establishes quickly the sort of place the characters live in and how it is run. In addition, the paneling starts on the cover which is a bold move. The artist needs to take a bow after this, as the color, lines, and shading of this comic are the stars. The art feels like a beautiful, albeit terrifying, fever dream that drags you into a dark and mysterious world. It’s got a certain dreamy quality that seems to leak through the page, dragging the eye across without demanding focus in some panels, and then a stark and demanding shift in others.
The symbolism lacks subtly. Its heavy religious tone, or criticism of religious fanaticism, is less of a subtle metaphor and more of a sledgehammer through the wall of a church. There is this bit where a woman is literally attacked by her children seeking nourishment, and it felt a bit heavy handed.
The characters are real and imperfect, but, to be honest, all of them except the two main characters are rather undesirable, and while this might be an intentional choice, it doesn’t make me feel good. The two main characters are slightly flat, and one dimensional. While I feel this might have been done on purpose, as the setting itself feels more of a character than anything, it still isn’t executed well. The world seems a little too hopeless to offer any good end to our intrepid main characters.
Overall, the comic’s art is the most redeeming thing about it, and it has a ritualistic feel, the same way a story about a long-lost culture might have.
While I feel that was the intent of the author to make the audience think, I felt the message was lost in the strangely fetishistic portrayal of the story materials; it feels a little as if Hellboy went off the chain and threw all subtly to the wind.
Creative Team: Jason Aaron (writer), R.M. Guera (artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
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