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Fanboy of Fear Feo Amante Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Violent Messiahs
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VIOLENT MESSIAHS: The Book of Job - 2002
Image comics
Writer: Joshua D.M. Dysart
Artist: Tone Rodriguez
$24.95
ISBN: 1-58240-236-1

Once in a while - a very great while - a story comes along in the graphic form that makes everybody stop. Lone Wolf and Cub did that. So did the original Mr. X, Yummy Fur, The Watchmen, The Crow, and a few others. There have been many more story lines that were far more popular, but that same popularity was short lived. Those tales were salty popcorn, good while it lasted but soon dropped in the garbage once used. Lone Wolf and Cub, and The Crow came to powerful endings, Mr. X petered out into confused and sputtering gasps of wandering drivel. Yummy Fur ended powerful and was then castrated for its own collected graphic novel - twice. The only thing bad about the Watchmen now is, in retrospect, the poor comic book coloring of its time.

About ten years ago, Image Comics came out, new and cocky, with potentials and promises. For a while, it looked good. It had a great selection of titles, any of which could have been great classics: SPAWN, THE MAXX, and more.

But SPAWN devolved into the action figure issue and THE MAXX got a brief cartoon and a storyline that cornered itself and collapsed.

In 2000 though, an 8 issue comic book called VIOLENT MESSIAHS was released. The hero/antihero wore a mask similar to Spider Man/Spawn/Grendal (our generation's substitute for capes), and was a massive figure of unknown alliances. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? He was dangerous to the innocent but deadly to the criminal. And in the city of Rankor, on Rankor island, he became known as Citizen Pain. Pain was a serial killer, but since he only killed other killers, only the police worried about catching him.

There was also a second killer, who became known as The Family Man. He murdered parents who neglected their children. Children liked the idea but parents wanted this guy found and destroyed. Two serial killers in one staggering city, each with their own fanbase and moral code.

The thing was, every time the cops went after one, they usually found the other. What was the connection between these two? They couldn't have looked more different. The Family Man was a nice short blonde haired guy who looked too friendly to be a killer. Citizen Pain, on the other hand, was a hulking giant, seemingly indestructable, and a creature of nightmare.

The cop who has been assigned to make sense of it all comes from the mainland. Her name is Cheri and she is too new on the force to have any alliances with her peers. The man assigned to help her on the case, Houston, is the department's biggest incompetent boob. So wrapped up in his own sense of low self-worth, and constantly pandering for validation from others, he makes for a pathetic cowering figure.

Normally, as stories go, these two would come together, find their own hidden strengths or the weaknesses they never knew existed, fall in love, and blah, blah, blah. And despite what I just wrote, story lines like that are fine so far as they go. Its refreshing to find one that bucks the norm, however, and VIOLENT MESSIAHS: The Book of Job is it.

The story line by Joshua D.M. Dysart, is powerful, twisted, vicious, multi-layered, and touching. The characters created by Dysart and the original creator of VIOLENT MESSIAHS, William O'Neill, fulfill the human embodiment of what they are, with powers and frailties that are recognizable instead of merely, well, comic-bookish. By that last statement I mean that, for a long time now, directly because of the birth of underground and independant comics, stories and characters in graphic novels and serials are no longer the popcorn inanity that American audiences still knee-jerk react to when they hear the word Comic Book. VIOLENT MESSIAHS: The Book of Job is yet more evidence that the graphic story telling form is every bit as valuable as the best that literature has to offer.

And while we are on the subject of graphics, Image set a new standard long ago with their incredible coloring techniques, building upon the foundations laid down years before by First Comics (Nexus, The Badger). All these years later and they still maintain the highest level of quality, which in turn demands the most from the artists. But Penciller Tone Rodriguez and Colorist Travis Smith aren't lacking here either. Which is what makes this graphic novel particularly great, because the synergy of all these folks have come together as perfect as a Metal band at their zenith.

VIOLENT MESSIAHS is a novel of human frailties and strengths. Dark secrets and crippled souls. There is a journey into madness here, and the light at the end of this tunnel may only be bright in comparison to the night you have to travel through to get there.

VIOLENT MESSIAHS: The Book of Job gets all five Fanboys.

FanboyFanboyFanboyFanboyFanboy
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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