The covers: Four different choices for this opening installment of a modern day Inferno. The A cover is by Kyle Charles with Jordan Boyd. Turning the book so that the left side is the bottom of the image, a reader can see Charon’s boat with the mythical character, the protagonist, and William Blake on board. Behind them is the nightmarish landscape of the underworld. However, if one were to look at the characters’ reflections in the water, Charon and Blake are corpses. Great image, great coloring, and I like that reader will have to turn the book to see the image more clearly. I’m all for interactive covers! The B is by Robert Hack and has the unnamed protagonist sitting beneath a tree that’s composed entirely of bones, with skulls hanging like fruit. I like how one skull on the bottom left has a sprouted a new tree. A neat creepy illustration with the colors making this seem like a dream gone wrong. Anna Zhuo has produced a Variant cover that I discovered online. This looks to be the mother who is holding a flaming yellow skull. The bottom of the image has white roses on either side, while behind the character is a clock with roman numerals signifying the nine levels of Hell she will visit. Neat, but this is so heavily influenced by Manga I can’t tell if the figure is male or female. The most disturbing cover is the Scott’s Collectable’s exclusive Variant cover by Gianluca Gugliotta. A demon with a woman’s head writhes in pain as she tries to grasp a orb before her that shows the trio on Charon’s boat. Electricity is shooting out of the ball and onto this fallen creature, causing her to scream and shake in pain. The colors are a dusty red, white, and a slight blue, contributing to the horror of this image. I like it! Overall grades: A A, B B+, Zhuo Variant C, and Scott’s Collectable’s Exclusive Variant A
The story: The point of view slowly pulls back from dying flowers on a kitchen table to reveal a house in disarray. Dirty dishes are on the table and piled in the sink, letters are scattered on the table, and trash is on the floor. In one room a middle-aged woman is putting items into a box. She muses over missing the noise that used to be in the house. The quiet is overwhelming her. Her family has died, a husband and two children. Moving throughout the home she realizes that she can’t escape this place. ‘Each time I walk these halls, the floors sink a little deeper. And I sink with them. As if I’m becoming part of this house, waiting for them to come back.’ She pulls the cord that releases a ladder that leads to the attic. As she ascends memories from her past assail her. It’s at the top of the stairs that she meets the other major character of this book: William Blake. Yes, that William Blake. He’s come to take her through Hell to get her family back. “If thou will trek through the Hell’s circles’s nine, thy family shall once again be thine.” This story from Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson, both co-creators along with artist Kyle Charles, is retelling Dante’s Inferno from a modern perspective. I haven’t read the iconic tale since college, so this will be interesting to read since it’ll all be new. However, she’s not really key because it’s the location that’s the star, and that’s somewhat of an issue. I would be paying more attention to the protagonist if I had more to hold on to than her sadness. Her name would have helped considerably, rather than my using a pronoun to designate her. Using Charon to get to the mother beyond the gates was neat, with the boatsman creepy and unlike any other incarnation of him I’ve encountered. Limbo is the first area entered where several classical figures languish, as well as several more modern faces. The final setting is a drastic change from Limbo and I want to see what other well know personalities lie in this underworld. Overall grade: A-
The art: Kyle Charles’s visuals are a key selling point of this book. The cinematic pull back to reveal the setting and ultimately the protagonist is very neat. The reader is able to create a backstory for the character before her voice is heard. When she does speak, two nine page panels are used to show how her life has fallen into a pattern. The climb into the attic has the reader turning the double-paged splash to be read vertically, mirroring the woman’s journey and allowing moments from her past to be recalled. Very cool. Blake’s reveal is surprising, but the woman takes it in stride. I expected more of a visual reaction to seeing the spook, but I guess she’s so empty his presence doesn’t mean much. The characters’ exit from the house looks terrific. I’m not keen on the labyrinth page, but I get what Charles was going for. Much better is when the pair leave the normal world and come before the gate. The gate is shown as a full-paged splash that, like the climb to the attic, requires the reader to turn the book on its side. This was neat. The recent dead and Charon look good, with the master of the boat looking strong and creepy. Limbo was the highlight of the book for me. It’s not how I expected it to look, nor was it populated by characters I was expecting. These pages looked cool and the characters definitely resembled the famous characters that inhabit it. The transition from Limbo to the final setting is very smooth, with the penultimate page of the issue giving the appropriate amount of time for the lead to recover. The final page is a full-paged splash that’s a stunner. If one is looking for Hell, this is what one might expect. I swear I heard Pink Floyd music when I first looked at this page. I’m liking the combination of the familiar and the damned from Charles. Overall grade: A
The colors: The colors are fairly dim for this issue. The subdued shades suit a woman in mourning and where she ultimately goes. Blake provides colorist Dee Cunniffe opportunities to brighten up the dead settings, not only from his transparent blue flesh, but with the yellows that begin their journey. I really like the orange and yellow sky used to show the end of the street. That pair of colors provides a smooth transformation to the dirt browns that compose the next setting. The yellows and reds on Charon’s flesh make him delightfully monstrous. The greens used for the water are awesome. Limbo and its denizens are in a frozen blue with a violet sky, allowing the mother to stand apart with her bright yellow sweater. The last page is the brightest of the book, but it’s also the most disturbing. As with the art, I look forward to seeing how Cunniffe creates Hell. Overall grade: A
The letters: Ryan Ferrier creates narration and dialogue (the same font), quoted passages, annotations for quotes, and the tease for next issue. I prefer to see narration and dialogue set apart from one another, often with italics employed, but the shape of the thought boxes separate them enough from the dialogue balloons. Instead italics are employed when a character states a classic verse of text. The only other visually interesting writing is the annotations for these verses, which are done in a flowing script. I was expecting more sounds from Hell, because it’s…Hell. However, I think they’ll appear the lower the protagonist gets. Ferrier is not given opportunities to shine, but what he does is fine. Overall grade: A-
The final line: I’m interested enough to continue reading to see what famous individuals lie in the center most rings of Hell and if the protagonist will get her family back. An intriguing premise on a classic novel with visuals that combine the sublime and the nightmarish. More, please!
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