How would you fare if you were stranded in a foreign country, surrounded by strangers, and not entirely sure how to get home? Better yet, how would have fared in that situation when you were still in high school?
That’s the situation thrust upon the cast of character in No Mercy, the Image Comics thriller from Alex de Campi and Carla Speed McNeil. A group of the brightest teenagers from the United States take a trip to a remote area of Central America, in the hopes of boosting their college applications. The trip proves to be far more fatal than any of them expected, when a bus accident leaves the group badly hurt and stranded.
The survivors must deal with wild animals, an inhospitable environment, and each other, and the introduction of a criminal organization in the first arc’s finale seems poised to make things even worse.
De Campi spoke to ComicBook.com about what’s next for the remaining survivors as the second story arc kicks off in today’s No Mercy #5.
To start with basics, what can you tell me about the plot of No Mercy's second arc?
The first arc was the rock in the water: it was all about the big splash. This second arc is about the ripples moving outward from that splash, especially towards the last few issues of the arc (the arc comprises issues 5-9). We've been so focused on the immediacy of the kids' situation, that I've been able to conceal what is going on in the US with friends, parents, the internet, the school.... but those ravens start coming home to roost this arc. The blaming and spinning starts. As for the kids, some go home. Some die or are severely injured. Some get what they want. Some see their chances of going home fade into the distance.
Is there a specific theme or goal that you've placed on this next arc? Or specific sides of these characters that you’re hoping to explore?
This arc continues the slow reveal of the kids' actual personalities, much of which they did not show on first meeting each other. And we introduce some new kids, British gap year students doing a Pan-American trip. I think one of the balancing acts with this arc is taking some of the kids you may not have been too fond of in Arc 1, where they initially seemed shallow, and revealing more of their internal life... and perhaps making them more likeable. And then a character I really like does something pretty terrible, but I'm not 100% sure anyone will blame them for their action.
The first arc of No Mercy was about the group trying to survive together in the harsh wilderness. The survivors have now more separated. How does this effect your approach to storytelling going forward? Will we see issues dedicated more or less entirely to a specific character or group?
Issue #9 concerns only one character, and is a flashback issue. The rest of the issues balance between two or three groups of kids, except for Issue 8, which touches in on everyone before what is essentially the end of the arc (and there are about three mic drops in Issue 8. So proud of the tension and reveals in that issue). It's fun trading back and forth between characters, because I can accomplish a lot in the space between a particular character's scenes. This whole book has been a real test of my ability to manage a large ensemble cast while keeping up dramatic tension. As a writer, these sorts of tests are fun.
The first arc felt very much like a "man vs. wild" story. How does the introduction of the human threat of Sister Ines' criminal family effect the tone, if not the genre, or the second arc?
My books are always to some extent cross-genre, and No Mercy in particular is informed by about 17 years of living outside the US, plus some summers being an absolute teenage idiot abroad. I don't feel I'm baiting/switching anyone, nor do I feel like I'm changing tack -- the hints as to where the book is going are all there, in Issue 1. And I'd say the second arc is more terrifying than the first, in many ways.
With such an ensemble cast, which have becomes your favorites to write/draw? With so many dying over the course of the first arc, are there any you've come to regret not having around for the second arc?
There were a few characters we planned to kill off early. One had such a great character design, I just kept her. And another was drawn into a panel in Issue 2 with some great dialogue that Carla added, and I'm so glad we kept him because his saaaarcastic drawl is super fun. Of course I regret Lily dying, but it had to be done. In terms of favourites? I'm so far ahead in writing, some of my favourites you are so far from meeting. Travis' mom is a pretty amazing character. The trio of British kids I love to write. I love them all. I always quote a particularly morbid Arthur Miller line when people ask me about who my favourites are: "I guess they were all my sons".
Speaking of fatalities, you killed off about a third of your core cast is the opening arc. Does the story remain that deadly going forward? Should readers be careful about getting too attached to anyone?
Yes, and yes. The murder rate is fairly low in this coming arc (but there are a couple of deaths and a hell of a maiming). The end of the third arc, though? It is a doozy.
No Mercy #5 is on sale now! Find it at your local comic shop or digital comics outlet.