Saturday, September 1, 2012

White Devil # 1

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of White Devil # 1 (self-published, 2012).

My first thought upon beginning the first issue of White Devil, a four part comic serial by Matt Evans and Andrew Helinski with artwork by Nate Burns, was that the lettering was completely awful and inappropriate. Speaking from personal experience of having released more than a dozen comics where the reasonably good writing and the decent-to-okay artwork was completely wrecked by the lettering, that's more than a bugbear, it's a gaping wound. My second thought was that setting the action in Wetumpka, Alabama and describing it as a place where nothing happens is a bit unfair. Wetumpka, a northern suburb of Montgomery, is the home of Hog Rock BBQ. Everybody should visit Wetumpka.

Fortunately, White Devil is a good enough effort to overcome my initial impression, even if the lettering goes even further off a cliff a few pages on. The creators opted for a scratchy handwriting style for the narrative captions, and this is followed by what looks like a cut-and-paste job from something haphazadly typeset in Word. Frankly, the material here is too good and too promising for such a sloppy approach. Nate Burns' artwork is really impressive. It's black-and-white with tremendous detail and a terrific balance of shade. Across several pages of suburban stillness, he avoids the temptation to shortcut or leave things out, anchoring his characters very firmly in a very real, modern environment of lived-in kitchens, homes, and neighborhoods.

In fact, the work is so grounded that it emphasizes the ugly plot twist extremely well. Our lead character, a suburban mom, has a double life with a gal pal, and excuses herself from household duties for "book club" meetings that turn out to be kinky orgies in the woods with a cult. The artwork is, ever so briefly, quite explicit and visceral and not even remotely sexy when the action leads us here, which doesn't bode well for future events after the Satanic band actually end up conjuring something into our world. Awful things are going to happen in upcoming issues.

Evans and Helinski do a fine job in this first issue pacing the story and setting the scene. At this stage, the comic is more a mood piece than anything either truly horrific or particularly action-oriented. It's something to linger over, enjoying the honest and believable depiction of a life that looks like it is just about to get brutally shattered. I sincerely wish that the creators had paid for the services of a professional letterer, but with that caveat, this still gets a recommendation for older readers.

A PDF of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your comics or detective fiction featured here, send me an email.

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