Writer: Andrew Guilde
Illustrator: Camilo Ponce
Letterer: Wes Locher
Publisher: Markosia (previously Insane Comics, now shuttered)
Available: Now via ComiXology (single issues); February via Markosia.com (collected trade)
Price: $1.99 each for 4 digital issues OR get issue one free from Andrew Guilde at aguilde.com/freecomic
Warning: Sorry, but this one’s for the grown-ups, kids. You have been advised.
Out February from Markosia is the collected graphic novel of Man of Sin by Andrew Guilde, Camilo Ponce and Wes Locher. An antichrist tale decidedly meant for the adult crowd (episodes of fairly extreme violence and suicide, as well as heavy religious themes), Sin plumbs the depths of extreme loss, what we’ll do to cope with and overcome it, and how we define meaning after such grief. Oh, and Armageddon; like any good book, there’s something about that in there, too.
After listening to the last words of his son one more time, he shatters his phone, crushing it against his bathroom mirror, then uses its shards to punctuate that end.
Damien Nero has experienced the single greatest horror any parent could face, the most soul-wrenching, world-ripping thing conceivable: one year ago today, his young son Jordan was kidnapped and murdered. His marriage now in shambles, his life a train wreck, the police and his confidants unable—or unwilling—to offer any help despite his absolute (but apparently unfounded) belief in a phantom voice in the background of a cell phone message he’d received from Jordan as he was being kidnapped, he’s finally reached his end.
Except the powers that be (well, one power in particular) don’t quite think Damien is ready for the Great Beyond…and Mr. Lived (he goes by other names, you might have heard of him, but what’s likely puzzling you is the nature of his game) offers a Faustian bargain to lead him to his boy’s kidnapper if he can keep himself alive for 24 more hours.
Finally, answers. Justice. Vengeance. This is a bargain Damien can get behind. The problem? Well, he’s just smashed his phone to a million bits, and he’s quickly bleeding out.
Oh, and there’s a shadowy group of individuals who want to be certain that today is in fact his last on earth. They’re pretty damn desperate about it, as a matter of fact—and quite assertive about making it happen.
Man of Sin starts out dark, slips into shadow and then cascades into ebon blackness before being consumed in blazing hellfire. It’s a story of grief, pain, rage and harrowing loss. And the antichrist, the end of times and how that’s all supposed to pan out. More than a simple eulogy or horror, Sin is a bit of a puzzle, one that I won’t expand upon much here to avoid stealing the fun from you—but one that Guilde unravels masterfully, until you feel not so much sucker-punched as slowly constricted, until your breath is utterly taken from you. He spins his tale masterfully, teaming with Ponce to weave his chronicle in the visual as much as literary medium, capitalizing on every facet of the graphic format.
The narrative throughout Sin transitions back and forth among a variety of flashbacks and the present (largely Damien’s, though not always). Damien’s mysterious benefactor makes the occasional appearance, and the story’s flow itself can be a bit confusing: pay attention to the number of visual tips Guilde and Ponce provide, such as changing border colors, palette choices, etc., or else risk getting lost. Which is exactly as it should be. It’s a story-telling methodology that gels perfectly with the emotional confusion and chaos that is the core of this book.
Ponce’s art (he’s responsible for the pencils, inks and colors) in Man of Sin is gorgeous. In an atypical comic style, he employs a pencil sketch and watercolor method, typically more suggestive of discreet shapes than refined, exact line—and the style works well for the book’s subject matter. An emotional powerhouse of a tale, Ponce’s washes and palettes do as much service to render each scene’s emotion as they do in describing the action itself. On re-read, I actually notice the more intense emotional scenes offer less defined line, while the less intense (but still compelling and important) conversational bits are more completely rendered. A subtle, but powerful shift in storytelling technique, and a great example of the impact of an artist’s style in telling a story in the graphic medium.
Locher’s lettering throughout Sin is efficient and smooth—and given Ponce’s art, it needs to be. He’s able to position dialogue bubbles so as to maximize Ponce’s impact, and to create strong flow panel to panel. Locher’s not given many fun sound effect opportunities in the book, however, he does get to play with font among different character types, which helps differentiate characters.
All-told, a beautifully presented, harrowing story, one I’d recommend you not miss.
The four individual issues of Man of Sin, published this time around by Markosia Comics (there have been previous offerings through Kickstarter and the now-defunct Insane Comics) are available via ComiXology at $1.99 per issue, and will be available in collected trade this February directly from Markosia (shop them here).
If’n you’re interested in checking the book out, but not quite trusting of my word on it, no worries. You can download issue one directly from Andrew Guilde himself at aguilde.com/freecomic. Were I you, I’d definitely take him up on this one!
Review by Andy Patch