Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Goran Sudzuka
Garth Ennis & Goran Sudzuka’s horror masterwork remains powerful and will be relevant for ages to come.
Early on, during the point where The Pandemic was still just “That thing that’s like the flu, but a little worse” in the minds of most U.S. Americans, a book written by Garth Ennis (who’s worked on famous superhero characters like Punisher and Batman but also writes original sci-fi works like Caliban) with art by Goran Sudzuka, (most famous for Vertigo Comics’ dystopia Y the Last Man, but having also worked on American superhero comics Thor and Wonder Woman ) was quietly released into a market glutted with many works. There is a lot of horror competing for the eyeballs and off-hours of readers across the world.
Roughly two years later, the work remains as rich and powerful as the political dread that gripped a nation and a world in 2016 through 2020. While parts of the story are set during the election season of would-be President Donald Trump, it was released in an era where President Trump was running for a second term.
With such a dire backdrop, the story of a serial killer who may or may not have suckered two FBI agents into taking a trip into the literal realm of Hell itself, paled in comparison to the surge in radical political polarization in the US.
That was scarier than anything from the nightmares of church going folk about the devil and his details. By the end, with Trump installed as President and the world on fire, Hell seems less like another universe and more like the one we have right here.
The story involves a woman in her 40s named Shaw and a younger man named McGregor, two agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They have been pulled back into a wild case involving a sinister bastard named Carnahan. Carnahan has inspired a wave of copycats and has killed children through either his own hands or others doing the dirty work, in a “John Wayne Gacy + Charles Manson x Aleister Crowley = Still not as scary as talking with your family about the state of society during Thanksgiving” equation (the latter being something we, as humans in the United States of America’s Cultural Beast’s Belly can attest all too well).
The frightening part, though, is that Carnahan has been dead for about a year or more. Whoever it is that Shaw and McGregor encounter isn’t what he appears and might just be The Devil himself – which is still less frightening from a high level perspective than global warfare or the social climate getting radically polarized.
People in the rest of the world have their own “strongman” leaders to cause dread inside their borders, so the tale might still resonate even if one replaces Donnie Trump with Boris Johnson, or whomever else fits the menu and the bill.
A story starting out with the murder of a woman and a child being murdered, though, that might hit harder all the more when we realize what kind of root causes inspire such awful action.
The inspirational contribution by Mr Ennis is that he doesn’t stop at Trump as the awful event that outstrips the supernatural forces/scientific con artistry behind the hellscape that Shaw and McGregor must wade through. Instead, Mr Ennis lays out the pieces to convince readers that Trump and all the political rockstar assholes are just a symptomatic. And the disease is getting stronger: the 21st century is set to deteriorate the remaining soul of a never-strong moral world. Avoiding the urge to point the finger at one problem or one protagonist or antagonist, we are instead treated to a horror show of human nature.
Goran Sudzuka’s line work is just as astounding and majestic as ever. His roaring introduction to many an American reader with Jamie Delano on Outlaw Nation when it was with DC’s now defunct Vertigo imprint makes this tale feel like the natural extension of his talents taken to the perfect loop of defining the past, present and future of the American mindscape.
The work might not hit the same chords with an international audience, but notes will be strung together to paint a dreadful and dire landscape of the dirty concert arena of the soul.
If you want to be frightened then it’s recommended that you “check a look” at this title if you dare.