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Sunday Slugfest: The Damned: Prodigal Sons #1 (of 3)

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2008
By: Keith Dallas

Cullen Bunn
Brian Hurtt
Oni Press
Matthew J. Brady: 4.5 Bullets
Martijn Form: 4 Bullets
Paul Brian McCoy: 3 Bullets




Matthew J. Brady 4.5 Bullets

Last year, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's The Damned miniseries was an exciting bit of supernatural noir, crafting a Miller's Crossing-style gangster tale that was populated with demons, curses, and other weird elements. But while the main story of the comic wrapped up satisfyingly, plenty of questions were left unanswered, leaving open the opportunity to tell more stories that delve into the characters' past and reveal what will happen to them next.

And that follow-up is finally here, in the first of two three-issue miniseries that continue the story of Eddie, a mortal human cursed to always come back to life whenever he is killed. In the first miniseries, he managed to play the various demon families off each other and emerge somewhat victorious, although, as befits a good noir story, the results certainly weren't all positive. But he also found a new purpose, having possibly made a connection with his dead mother during one of his temporary jaunts to the afterlife. Now, he decides to recruit his estranged brother Morgan to try to resurrect her, but they'll also have to deal with some of the demons he crossed in the last miniseries, as they intend to kill him and make sure he won't be coming back.

It's a nicely-told first issue of the new series, setting up new plot threads and reestablishing the gloomy atmosphere of the series. There's a nice theme of family, from the opening flashback from Eddie and Morgan's childhood when they witnessed their father failing to protect his family from the demons he made deals with, to the current love/hate relationship that Eddie and Morgan share, to the loving relationship Eddie's demon adversary has with his own daughter. Cullen Bunn does an especially good job of suggesting all that has transpired between Eddie and Morgan, giving us just enough hints about their past to keep us interested in eventually finding out what happened to them, how they both ended up cursed, and how their mother died.

Brian Hurtt, an always-reliable artist, does a great job here, especially in the character designs and facial expressions. When we first meet Morgan (who wasn't in the previous miniseries), it's obvious that he's Eddie's brother just from the facial features that the two of them share. Their emotions are so plainly evident in their interactions, we can see the years of pain that have existed between them, and we want to know how they got to this point after seeing them in the flashback as mirthful children. But Hurtt doesn't just give us emotion; he also delivers on the action, in a lengthy scene involving Morgan, a team of murderous demon thugs, and Eddie's dead body. I especially like a panel in which a ram-horned demon smashed through a door, creating a large "CRASH" sound effect which is obscured by all the chunks of flying rubble. And those demons look great; there's something about the juxtaposition of horned heads and pointy fangs with dapper Prohibition-era suits and hats that's especially effective. It's a great-looking book, and I can't wait to see what sort of visuals Hurtt delivers in future installments.

So I would definitely recommend the comic. It's a worthy follow-up to the original miniseries, and I'm very excited to see what's in store. Bunn and Hurtt have a great story going here, so catch it before you end up like Eddie, since you won't be fortunate enough to come back like he does.




Martijn Form 4 Bullets

I have a soft spot for Oni Press. Wasteland, Borrowed Time, Local and Ojo are amazing, quality titles that really deserve a larger audience.

Recently, I picked up the first volume of The Damned, mainly because after Hard Time I found myself a new artist to drool over, namely Brian Hurtt. I'm now following him anywhere, and when he ends up at Oni PressÖ well, letís say a day can not turn out any better.

The setting for this comic is brilliant: The Godfather meet Hellboy. And Oni Press already got my interest with their first hello.

We got ourselves a group of monsters, hellspawn and other kind of party animals that you wouldn't invite to your wedding. They are part of a crime family that uses more than guns alone.

I think artist Hurtt has outdone himself with the designs of his monsters. With minute detail he serves us some highly original characters that could without any effort crawl into your own nightmares.

The story revolves around the first picture of the first page: a mother with her two sons. The first sequence is a lovely flashback where boys are being boys. The two brothers, Morgan and Eddie, learn that there is more to their little family than meets the eye. When they sneak at the door of their fatherís working room to take a peak who father is secretly meeting, they wish they hadn't.

What would you do or feel if the devil was in your house? As the years pass by, their mother goes missing, the brothers can't get along anymore, and Eddie is doing a Connor McLeod act of being immortal.

This issue left me flabbergasted by its story and art. It twists and turns with swiftness from a crime family to the depths of hell. I think John Constantine would be jealous not being part of this great comic.

Again, Hurtt is doing his best work here, so don't you dare miss it! His characters are drawn with so much love and affection that the pages are awesome to look at. The rivalry of the brothers on the one hand, and their love for each other on the other is a match made in heaven. Or in this case hell.

The doom of the monster crime family hanging over their heads is a touch that makes this comic so damn special.

I can't wait for the next issue, so in the mean time I will be re-reading volume one of The Damned and probably Hard Time after that, because I need my Brian Hurtt fix badly.




Paul Brian McCoy: 3 Bullets

There's a lot to like in this comic. It's well structured and has a nice visual style. My only real problem is with the action sequence at the end of this first issue, and it's kind of a big one, but more about that later.

This is the story of two brothers, Eddie and Morgan, and their dealings with what are essentially demonic Mafioso. Eddie is cursed. If he dies, he's reborn when someone touches him, skin to skin. And whoever was so unlucky as to trigger this, dies. Morgan has a curse of his own, apparently, and as best as I can tell, he is "marked" whenever Eddie pulls a scam. It's something like that. It's not really explained, but there's some dramatic tension between the brothers.

You see, this is the second mini-series about these characters, and even though I haven't read the first one, everything I need to know about the plot is included on the introductory page. New readers should be able to pick this up without any difficulty. Although reading the first series will enhance your appreciation of the characters' relationships, there are a couple of characters who we just have to accept as generic narrative placeholders without that background info.

We have the demonic crime boss, who is only called "Boss" and "Father" during this issue, so I don't know who he is, except he has enough clout to order around a group of demonic henchmen and has a pretty daughter with creepy appetites. There's also a singer with no name, who seems to be linked (maybe romantically) with Eddie.

It's not really necessary to know who they are right off the bat, but Eddie's brother, Morgan, seems to know, and have some feelings for, the singer. It's hinted at, and then when they interact briefly at the end of the issue, they seem to know one another. I don't know if this stuff was established in the previous series or if we're just supposed to go along with it. Regardless, they're not deal-breakers and the story flows just fine without the extra exposition.

And the story is interesting. It seems that Eddie gets a glimpse of the Other Side whenever he dies, and he thinks he's seen his mother there. So, like any good son, he's going to try to bring her back to life with him. He doesn't really know how, but that's part of the fun of the story.

Hurtt's art is clean and does a good job moving the story along. There's a lot more thought in the layouts than in some of the more mainstream comics I've seen lately (Yes, I'm looking at you Cable), and there wasn't any moment where I was confused about what was happening or thought there needed to be some sort of explanatory narrative accompaniment.

Until we get to that final action sequence, anyway. Up until this point, the book is pretty good. It's imaginatively structured, and it looks good too, even without color. But then we have a big shootout in a hallway that just doesn't work for me at all.

There's just no way Morgan gets out of the spot he's in without taking some damage. There's just no way. The hallway is drawn too short and cramped for the group of demonic henchmen to be able to miss him. Especially with the added "baggage" he's dragging along with him. And when the singer shows up, there's no way she wouldn't be hit either. And then they get through a side door into another room, and the door seems to be bulletproof as well.

It was very disappointing. I hate it when characters get pushed into dramatic corners and there's just no way for them to get out without invoking some sort of "bad guys can't shoot straight" clause, as if it were some generic Eighties cop show on TV. The story should have an out built in, and this one doesn't.

What that says to me is, this is a story without real suspense or consequences to characters' actions. If the plot demands physics defying events, then that's what we're going to get. And that's too bad, because this book has promise. The character work sparked my interest, and the little things I didn't know about going in made me want to check out the first series to get caught up. But the end of this issue kind of kills my interest.

Of course, if the cliffhanger is resolved for the worse at the start of the next issue, I'll be right back on board. I just don't expect that it will be. But I've been wrong before, and I hope I'm wrong here. With that said, I'm not sure I care enough to check back.



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