Written by Jonathan Ross
Illustrated by Ian Churchill
Griffin Franks was a joke in Hollywood. A washed up action-hero. Over the hill. Past it. A has-been. A barely-was. But now he IS The Revenger. He’s a star. His movie’s a hit. His latest wife is hot. He finally has everything he wants. Just in time for someone to take it all away. Forever. Starting with his face.
A while ago, I reviewed “One-Hit Wonder”, a comic about a former movie star down on his luck who goes out on a violent murder spree. While I loved the concept, there was a lot left to be desired, namely an actual sense of weight and depth for the morally bankrupt characters that inhabited the bloody plastic Hollywood setting. Well, less than a month later, “Revenge” has come out (from the same publisher) no less and even though I think it’s a ridiculously gratuitous title, there’s no way it couldn’t be.
When I say “Revenge” is explicit, I’m understating it here. I think this is one of the few times I’ve seen a MATURE READERS label on the solicit for an Image comic, and “Sex Criminals” only seems to have its own on the back out of irony and spite. “Revenge”, meanwhile, has Ian Churchill draw the bloodiest, most-boob-filled hells capes imaginable. Hell, I think the image of someone having their face peeled off makes up a good two thirds of the comic. By the time you turn the first page, you’re thrust into a hellscape only the most depraved mind could offer. It’s honestly pretty awesome, as it’s never presented as something to enjoy. Though whether or not this is intentional, there’s a sense of disgust in Churchill’s art. The nude women are fake, breasts hanging out in physically unlikely shapes and sizes that imply years of plastic surgery, surgery the likes of which is all but plainly stated on main character Griffin Franks’s face. Man looks like a leather handbag. Unfortunately, that gross aesthetic runs through all the characters of the book turning everyone into a cellophane mess.
On a level, it totally works. This is a world seen through the eyes of a walking male power fantasy. Of course it’s going to be gross and fucked up, and the repulsiveness of the art set against Ross’s writing does offers an excellent contrast. Though there’s plenty of graphic scenes that’d make me gag in another book, and I’m not exactly happy to see them here, I at least can see why those scenes are there. This isn’t just shameless self-indulgence, it’s a deconstruction of the power fantasy at the heart of celebrities who built their entire fortunes on violence. Unfortunately, there’s a distinct lack of charm when it comes to the writing. It’s crass everywhere and no one seems to have much depth besides a turn-heel or two. Even then there’s a very blunt “HERE IS WHY I DID THE THING AND WHY YOU ARE TERRIBLE” speech that robs what could be one of the most intriguing characters in the series of their mystery. There’s one or two scenes showing a softer side of Griffin that just read as a blatant attempt to humanize him. It works to some extent, (the characters who work at a dog shelter are great, especially Diablo the “pussycat” dog) but it doesn’t help make any of the main characters feel any less distant.
Ultimately that may be “Revenge’s” biggest flaw. It’s far too distant to actually absorb anything from. Churchill’s talented when it comes to explicit content but less so when it comes to softer scenes. I can’t really connect with this emotional scene when there’s a nude woman in the corner and the only woman who keeps her clothes on and gets a name looks as plastic as other characters who are literally made of plastic at this point. Ultimately, it’s the problem of the balancing act. In an effort to subvert the male power fantasy, Ross and Churchill have unfortunately indulged it. This is the type of satire I’d want to read, deconstructions of patriarchal systems are my third favorite subject of writing behind dadaism and anything with Doop from X-Statix, but if it doesn’t differentiate itself from the other sex and gore comics on the shelves then how can I tell it’s being sincere? And if it’s not being sincere, if the creators really do just want to unironically have roughly thirty pages of peeled skin and silicon tits then what’s the point?Continued below
Final Verdict: 6.2 – Browse. There’s potential here, but it’s buried underneath a substantial layer of grime.