Stories blending visceral and pervading violence with emotional nuance and restraint are not typical in a medium dominated by powers and duty.
The truth behind the action—the consequences—are often lost within the spectacle of larger than life figures whose very purposes are a near unwavering determination to do good by punching things and people as hard as they can.
Then you find something that can straddle the line between violence and purpose, and you wonder how a story so malicious can also be so pure and satisfying. Charles Forsman's unflinching take on a prototypical grindhouse narrative manages to entertain and, even more important, compel the reader to continue down the dark path even though you know it's not right.
Revenger & The Fog, the second volume in Forsman's Revenger comic book series, might be the strongest arc in the series so far. It's slightly paired down in that there are no communist robots pimping girls, but it's much more despicable as it deals with themes of incest and sexual assault. There were moments in the story I felt uncomfortable, unsure if there was purpose behind the moments deeper than "you know what would be f#¢k@d up?" guiding the story process.
And yet I was locked in to continue, knowing full well I was treading down the damaged path walked by damaged people and how they managed to make a community with each other despite the pain they were dealt in there lives.
Forsman's series, for those who don't know, tells the story of the titular character; a broken woman who suffered her only connection to this world severed through horrific means. After the evil of the world took her child from her, she swore revenge. She eventually took that revenge and then spent her days protecting the weak and punishing the rotten who would prey on them with bloody discrimination.
A force of will and determination, it's fun reading a Revenger comic not because you know she'll win but because you want to see how many bodies get dismembered on the way there.
But like any action story with an impact, the violence underscores the unsettling undertone that carries the story through.
Cutting Through The Bone
Revenger & The Fog continues to dwell in the seedier aspects of the grindhouse, but unlike the first volume they have a clearer purpose for their inclusion. And through Forsman's craft the pages portray his intent clearly.
The volume's glossy paper stock allows the flat hues to pop off, often underscoring the the mood of the page with an vibrant. That style helps establish the mood in conjunction with the subject matter, the layouts, and his own linework.
Everything about this comic is a love letter to a different time, the colors just might be the most noticeable. The panels are mostly traditional and rigid, sticking to a grid except in the rarest moments to highlight an action beat.
But the layouts establish an order that keeps the momentum perpetual throughout the story. Revenger & The Fog has few insets and rarely experiments with different forms, and the dynamic action prevents the mood from getting stale quickly. The action is key here, playing with perspective to establish a balance between power and terror.
It helps that his linework is so fine and intentional, allowing him a greater focus on expressions and details. Forsman doesn't provide intricate background, instead employing contrasting pallets to make the figures stand out in their surroundings. He'd rather draw every seam on a character's clothing and every blemish on their skin and every wrinkle in their contorted faces to sell a scene.
The bloody and violent action sequences are improved because of Forsman's static interpretations. It's like a moment of horror captured at the right moment—a series of gruesome photographs taken with impeccable timing.
And every panel is framed with such precision that you're never at a loss with what Forsman is trying to say or do. The intention cannot be any clearer. Revenger is not a subtle comic, and it isn't meant to be. It'd be a shame if you didn't get a paper cut while reading it.prevnext
What Feels Good Isn't Always Right
While Revenger is not the most accessible comic in that not everyone will love its content, it's certainly worthy of the time at least once. If you want a straightforward action tale, you'll get exactly that. You might get uncomfortable at times and it might even upset you. After all, there are no heroes in Revenger's world.
But in today's world where more and more people are being encouraged to take what they want and make the life they feel they deserve, it's nice to see someone make their own justice for those who cannot.
Some might consider it a guilty pleasure but even then it's only a half truth. Revenger speaks to a carnal desire in many—not to reward what's right but to punish what's wrong. To say that there are consequences for your actions and you won't be able to make the same mistake twice.
Told through a conduit that's as relatable as it is intimidating, Revenger keeps you at arms length while permitting you a glimpse through a terrible window.
These elements aren't necessary to create an engaging, intense, and intriguing story filled with shootouts and fistfights. But it's likely to be much less satisfying without the intention guiding Forsman's pen. It's a great comic, if you can stomach it.prevnext
Revenger Vol. 2: Revenger & The Fog
Revenger & The Fog releases in stores and online May 31.
Note, I did not include Revenger Is Trapped in my review, even though it is a part of the collection released from Bergen Street Press. The one-shot does continue the story of the character, taking place further in the future of near-dystopian timeline. But it is more of an gritty action story that depicts the lead character succeed in unsurmountable odds, devoid of the themes, characters, and storyline that sets Revenger & The Fog apart.
By all means, that's a bad ass comic too and very much worthy of your time if you're a fan of well choreographed violence and suspenseful survival tales. But Revenger & The Fog just has a concise mission statement and an established motive throughout that deserves to stand on its own.
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