Step By Bloody Step: A Wordless Fantasy
Simon Spurrier, story; Matías Bergara, art; Matheus Lopes, colors
Image Comics, 2022
I have always been fascinated by comics without words. In a medium where art always carries more of the storytelling weight than the words, the few attempts to tell a story without dialog are worth serious attention. This is a four-issue fantasy miniseries told without words, just as the subtitle says. Its protagonists are a girl (who does not remember her name, or any past personal history) and her guardian, an armored giant who protects her from all of the dangers that threaten her in a barren environment. It is a dangerous place, which is gradually revealed to be some kind of dystopian future. After a while, it is revealed that the protector is a human woman wearing armor. That’s a surprise, but encountering Civilization (which has apparently survived) is at least as shocking. The Girl finds herself in a Cinderella role (which she doesn’t understand), and in the midst of a conflict between warring factions the Guardian steps in to help. It should be noted that there is some dialog here, but it’s in a language that is not translated. In the end there is a circular relationship between the girl and guardian that is implied: perhaps mother/daughter? Bergara’s art is beautiful throughout, even if it does not succeed in telling an entirely clear story. Visual information alone is effective for big events like battle scenes, but smaller emotional beats are much more difficult, and it can sometimes be difficult to see exactly what is going on in the story.
Something is Killing the Children Vol. 4
James Tynion IV, writer; Werther Dell’Edera, illustrator; Miquel Muerto, colorist
Boom! Studios, 2022
The previous collection concluded with the disaster at Archer’s Peak, which might have left an even larger body count, if not for some careful maneuvering. It ended with Erica heading out of town on a bus, having severed her ties to the Order of Saint George. Instead of picking up the narrative from there, this collection takes a step back. This is a prequel which reveals Erica’s origin story: how she survived a monster attack which killed her entire family, and came to join the Order of Saint George. She hurt a very powerful monster, and a hunter named Jessica came in and finished the job, trapping the monster in Erica’s stuffed octopus Octo. Standard operating procedure called for Jessica to kill Erica, so there would be no witnesses. But she sensed something special in the girl, and chose to recruit her instead. Erica had barely made herself at home in the House of Slaughter before she had to pass her initiation test. She did so with flying colors, confounding all expectations and establishing her natural talent for monster hunting.
Cullen Bunn, script; Fran Galán, art; El Torres, letters
Dark Horse Books, 2022
Cullen Bunn is incredibly prolific. I almost missed this four-issue miniseries until it popped up on a creator search. The protagonist is a sad loser named Stanley. He is the sort of person who everyone uses as a doormat: his girlfriend cheats on him, his co-workers abuse him, etc. All of that changes when he becomes possessed by a demon lord named Zedirex the Tormenter (Zed for short). Zed takes revenge on Stanley’s tormentors, and generally spreads mayhem. But as soon as Zed checks out for a rest Stanley is consumed by guilt over what Zed had forced him to do. He seeks out a bargain-basement psychic, who agrees to perform an exorcism. But the exorcism goes wrong, casting Zedirex out into the world, but leaving Stanley with his powers. So what can he do with those powers? Start a cult, of course. The cult grows so large that Stanley attracts a lot of attention. First, from the well-established International Church of Lucifer; then, from some other Lords of Hell. In the end Stanley makes a deal with Satan, but the ending feels rushed: it’s not clear exactly what the devil’s bargain means. It’s still a fun horror story, leavened with humor (aided by Galán’s art, with exaggeration that often suggests caricature).