Whether we want to admit it or not, Superman is the cornerstone of all superhero comics. Sure, he may not be the best character, nor may he have the best books, but he is the single most important creation in the history of the superhero genre; he IS the superhero genre. And because of that, he has been aped in look, style, and tone pretty consistently for the past 75 years.
However, few have been as funny, disturbing, or meta than Tom Scioli’s “Satan’s Soldier.”
Tom Scioli’s webcomic, which has only been publishing for 2 months and change, is the tale of the titular character. We don’t know much about him, other than he’s a total bastard, and that he seems always beyond-control powerful. But, even with this very skeletal understanding of the character, Scioli makes the story come alive in a style that is not very similar to how he usually works.
Scioli, who many of you may know from his work illustrating “Godland” for Image Comics, is an artist in the style of Jack Kirby; Scioli’s attention to detail, in most of his work, is breathtaking and precise. And yet “Satan’s Soldier,” while not exactly freeform, is not at all as detail-oriented as his usual work, and that freedom gives the work a really fresh quality. This feels like Scioli having unbridled fun, and that is an infectious feeling. I mean, how can you look at this panel and not smile:
As mentioned earlier, this is a very meta comic. The story works so well because we all know who Superman is supposed to be; so, when you see Satan’s Soldier, double cowlick and all, beating, drowning and, eventually, throwing into space a bundle of babies, something feels just plain wrong. As good as Superman is, that’s how evil Satan’s solider is.
We eventually meet his rival, presumably named Justice, and he is the mirror image of Satan’s Soldier – blue instead of red, only one cowlick, and fighting, presumably, for good. Well, spoiler alert, it doesn’t turn out too well for him.
Not only does he get his spinal crack, as we see above, but he also gets humiliated to a pretty severe degree, in yet another meta statement:
Scioli’s minimalist (for him) art and bare bones script give the story the feel of a comic stripped to its barest elements, which is such a welcome relief from the overwrought work usually associated with Superman analogues. This is a fun comic, but it is fun for entirely different reasons than why, say, “Superman Family Adventures” is fun. That book, by the great Franco and Art Balthazar, is about stripping Superman down to his fun, childlike roots. This is about taking the Man of Steel and making him just truly and utterly evil. As sad as I am that “Superman Family Adventures” is ending, I’m excited to see where “Satan’s Soldier” is going. If only to see more of this:
Scioli recently uploaded a video to YouTube that tells the entire first book’s story, sans words, and is a great way to start your introduction to the story:
To read the adventures daily, make sure to visit Scioli’s website.