Pullbox Reviews Broken Gargoyles: Sin & Virtue #1- America’s Wayward Sons Aren’t Done…

“Tell them that the forgotten men of the 117th Infantry Regiment have come home.”

To get back up to speed on the world of Broken Gargoyles, I read the first arc again and this single line distilled the story to its most essential component. Behind all of the great steampunk concepts, all of the gritty action, Broken Gargoyles is- to me- about soldiers trying to find their place when their war is over. The essential & very tragic truth in that is that for many veterans, the war is never over. They carry it with them in the memories of the things they saw and had to do, the brothers & sisters they lost, all of it burned indelibly into their thoughts and waiting to jump out in the quiet moments of everyday life.

Now co-written by Bob Salley & Christina Blanch, Broken Gargoyles: Sin & Virtue opens with a bunch of rich men sitting around talking about rich men things. With the Great War over, industrialists look back to expansion rather than production, and woe be unto anyone who gets in their way. For instance, these men want the farm land currently occupied by Julia Townsend, a young woman recently widowed, and they aren’t happy with her refusal to vacate. Meanwhile, Doug Prescott and the men of the above mentioned 117th have arrived at the Townsend farm to pay their respects to Julia, wife of their fallen comrade Billy, and to give her some cash to help her along.

Do you see where this is going? If you’re not sure, go back and read the first arc of Broken Gargoyles.

Bob Salley and Christina Blanch’s story of displaced soldiers whose scars- mental & physical- make it difficult for them to find their way back into civilian life picks up with the titular characters possibly finding a place. They’re welcomed into the Townsend home and offered a place to settle down. Complicating things, their former brother in arms William Manco is working with authorities to bring the 117th in for crimes committed in the first arc. The resulting conflicts, inner & external, fuel the narrative as motivations are explored & challenged. In all of the best stories, it’s almost never as simple as “good or bad”, “right or wrong”. Here the characters, people I’ve gotten to know and like in a shockingly short amount of time, are the centerpiece. The action is a secondary byproduct, the result of external forces coming into conflict with people for whom conflict has tragically become second nature.

The artwork by Stan Yak in the first arc of Broken Gargoyles was blunt and to the point. For Sin & Virtue, the team of Stan Yak & Mike Lilly have taken a different approach with a more streamlined look. Right now, I’m not really sure which I prefer, but we’ll see how things move along in the second issue. My first impressions are that the duo’s combined style could be very well suited as the action revs up, with more of a dynamic look on the page. My only regret is that the new look takes away some of the grunge from the steampunk setting that was present in the first three issue arc. The same with Robert Nugent’s use of a bright color palette… although I will happily grant that the tones change when the story moves into the nation’s “Dust Belt”. My misgivings are kept in check by the fact that at this time in history, the world was obsessed with progress. There was a push to put that shine to every aspect of life in an effort to cover the dirt and grime left behind by the “War to end all Wars”.

Justin Birch is once again killing it in the lettering, particularly in his creative use of fonts. Doug Prescott, the imposing wrecking ball on legs, has an especially unique “voice” when he’s masked as Birch uses gear shaped word balloons and blocky lettering to denote a Frankenstein-like nature. On the other side of it, when Prescott is unmasked, his dialogue is much less bombastic, almost washed out to imply the mask works to amplify & alter his speech.

I’m not overly optimistic by nature, and there’s always a sense of dread when a title I love changes creative hands. In this case, I’m gonna have to kick my inner curmudgeon to the side because Salley and Blanch are handling the joint duties without a hitch. Likewise, the change of artists could very well work to the story’s advantage as Yak, Lilly, & Nugent pick up the pace.

What I personally think matters is that everything I loved about Broken Gargoyles is still in place. The focus is still on a group of displaced people, perpetual outsiders all, trying to find a little bit of right in a world very much full of wrong. Ill tidings (and probably an ass whuping) on anyone who gets in between them and their dream of finding a place to call Home.

Final Score: 12/13

I’m not kidding… go back & read the first arc. This makes perfect sense.
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