“Chapter 1: Little Boy Death”
Writer: Nick Simmons
Pencils: Nick Simmons
Inks: Matt Dalton
Assistant artists: Nam Kim, Ben Harvey & Shi Hua Wang
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Rob Steen
Cover artist: Jo Chen
Editor: Tim Beedle
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Price: $4.99 US
After reading this comic book, one thing became abundantly clear to me: while many have been watching Nick Simmons on his father’s reality-TV show on A&E, he’s been watching anime. And a lot of it, given the influence of Japanese animation that’s painfully apparent in his writing and artwork for this new comic book. Simmons boasts an angular style that grants the various characters an otherworldly intensity that’s definitely in keeping with an anime approach to storytelling, and other fans of anime and manga horror will likely enjoy what they’ll find in this comic.
You may not know it, but evil gods walk the earth. Actually, you better hope you don’t know it, because those who do don’t live long. These powerful figures — these Revenants — look like anyone else, but they feed on human beings, drinking their blood, consuming their flesh. They’re immortal and invincible, so when one of their number warns they’re being targeted by a privately funded human army, few of the Revenants take it seriously. But when they come face to face with this army and its unusual, scythe-wielding general, they realize just how deadly serious the situation really is.
To say Simmons’s visual style is influenced by anime and manga is a tremendous understatement. Even Jo Chen’s cover artwork, as clearly influenced by Japanese comic art as it is, doesn’t illustrate how overwhelming the anime/manga riff of the interior art is. Given the design for Mot, the central Revenant character, it seems Death Note in particular was something on Simmons mind when he crafted this book. The art is clean overall, and there are some truly horrific and creepy moments that the art manages to accomplish nicely. Mind you, sometimes the effort to portray the main characters as monstrous falls short. There are a few too glimpses of wide grins filled with pointed, shark-like teeth, all portrayed in a cartoony manner that doesn’t quite convey the horror and danger they’re meant to represent. The strongest visuals Simmons and company offer are the silhouettes of Mot and Connor, as they eliminate any human features and focuses the reader’s attention on their unnatural physical traits.
One thing that struck me about this comic book is how it will likely take fans of Nick Simmons as a reality-TV star by surprise, and not in a good way. Gene Simmons Family Jewels is, at its heart, a wholesome show. Sure, it’s featured groupies bursting out of their bras and a G-spot stimulator glued to the star’s palm, but ultimately, it’s about a nuclear family that truly loves and cares for one another. Yes, it’s made up of staged conflicts and circumstances that can be painfully transparent, but its appeal lies in those brief moments in which the stars drop the façade and show themselves to be a tightly-knit, non-dysfunctional family unit. Family Jewels could be seen as a 21st-century The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Incarnate doesn’t fit that mould at all, as it’s gory and profane. Everything about the story is unnatural. Since this comic is being marketed to the Family Jewels fanbase through the A&E website, I wonder if that audience is fully prepared for what it’ll find here (even with the mature-readers label on the cover).
I also find it curious that three other artists are credited inside the book as “art assistants,” and only one of them merits a cover credit. It’s an unusual credit. There’s no indication of whether they’re additional inkers, background artists or some other role. The reason I make note of this is that this is marketed on Simmons’s name, that this is his creation, not only in conception but visually as well. The vague reference to “assistant artists” makes one wonder just how much assistance was rendered. I’m not suggesting Simmons wasn’t the main artistic force behind the linework in this comic book, but the additional art credits do raise some questions. Mind you, that’s not a concern when it comes to appreciating the storytelling.
So setting marketing concerns aside, the question is: did I enjoy this story? Unfortunately, I really can’t say that I did. I did appreciate the mythology that Simmons begins to construct here, but the fact of the matter is that this is a story full of villains. There’s no protagonist to cheer for. The Revenants are targeted for death by apparently corrupt and cruel forces, but the Revenants are just as distasteful as the “villains” of Simmons’s plot. The script is devoid of a character that the reader can connect with, cheer for or from which s/he can derive any kind of amusement. That’s a lot of corruption and villainy, sure, but for about five bucks for 42 pages of story and art, it didn’t make for a satisfying read. 4/10
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