For a mere dollar Oni Press’ crafty thriller ‘The Damned’ can (and should) be yours
By Stefania Rudd and Brandy Dykhuizen. Our Week In Review sums up our weekly comic book coverage while taking time for a new review or two before it’s all over. Did we miss your favorite books this week? Well. This is where you need to be.
The Damned #1
Written by Cullen Bunn.
Art by Brian Hurtt and Bill Crabtree.
Letters by CRANK!
SR: In its former incarnation The Damned was a mini-series; thankfully Oni Press has revived Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s demonic noir story into an ongoing monthly.
That’s a very fitting backstory for this book. In The Damned, our main character, Eddie, has a very specific curse: he can be killed — he can most certainly die — but if someone, anyone, touches his corpse or dying body they trade places with him, allowing Eddie to live. While that seems like a great party trick, the world in which Eddie lives forces him to show it off more than he would like.
Set during the Prohibition-era, Eddie owns the Gehenna Room, your typical speakeasy with booze, gambling, and sweet singing dames, with one hard and fast rule: no demons allowed. That rule can make things pretty difficult for him, since the city’s elite just so happen to be demons, a society that live their lives as warring crime families.
Their power is acquired through attaining human souls, and those who have the most are the “old money,” and they are doing all they can to hold on to them. Once a demon has your mortal soul, the true faces of the demons can be seen by those who are cursed. Like Eddie.
In this debut issue, Eddie manages to cross crime boss Bruno Roarke’s hatchetmen by denying them access into his club. He is a bit surprised to find them wanting to come in at all, but soon realizes what they are after: an old acquaintance, Pauly Bones, who comes back into Eddie’s life unexpectedly.
Having not read the original mini-series, I can say that this issue is well done at introducing new readers to Eddie and the demons that plague his life… both internally and externally. Bunn’s dialogue and overall narrative is faithful to the noir style. (And, as interesting as a prohibition-era gangster story often is, I appreciated the added wrinkle of making the crime families demons.)
Hurtt’s artwork does a beautiful job of drawing out that overall vibe, from Eddie’s permanent scowl to the big, soulful eyes of both the cabaret singer, Darcy, and the mysterious (and also cursed) recluse, Deidra. Enhancing this is Bill Crabtree’s coloring, who mixes it up by relying on colors (amid his shades of black and white) that provide emphasis to clues that are likely to be useful later on.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a first issue that has grabbed my interest like The Damned. Hold onto your souls, kiddos; I have a feeling we are in for a devilish ride.
9 out of 10
Written by Frank Tieri.
Art by Oleg Okunev.
Colors by Rob Schwager.
Letters by Marshall Dillon.
BD: With Pestilence, Frank Tieri and Oleg Okunev drape the 14th Century in detailed gore and a per-page profanity quota. The Holy Land has been taken over by renegade crusaders, who’ve raped and pillaged their way into the comfort of excess in the name of The Church. These Bacchanalian looters, portrayed with gaping, Brian Blessed-sized maws set to consume all the wine, swine, and women that cross their paths, are pleased as punch to misrepresent the Vatican’s message to suit their own needs.
What they are not counting on, however, is a visit from the men of Fiat Lux, here to set matters straight in the name of all that is holy.
Pestilence presupposes that history has a way of rewriting itself to appease humanity’s collective conscious. What if The Plague of the Middle Ages was not the bacterial infection we’ve come to accept, but a far more sinister form of Black Death? (Though, let’s be honest, is a zombie apocalypse actually more sinister than Yersinia pestis? I’d imagine either one gets the job done.)
Humans may not have succumbed to the plague so much as became the disease itself, a not-so subtle commentary on the long arm of The Church over the ages. Regardless of how one interprets intent, Pestilence runs rampant with fire and brimstone and unhinged jaws. It’s here to liven up one of the darker chapters of human history with wanton havoc.
7 out of 10
From earlier this week —
What books did YOU read this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.