In each volume of Pandora's Box, the writer of the series, Alcante, links one of the Seven Deadly Sins to both a Greek myth and modern technology. It's an ambitious undertaking, and he pulls it off beautifully--reminding readers that while civilizations may advance, human nature is still human nature.
In Sloth, championship runner Paris Troy is tempted to use drugs to hold onto his title; in Gluttony, Teze uncovers an unsavory family secret while trying to discover the cause for an outbreak of a new strain of Mad Cow disease.
Of the two books, Sloth is the more straightforward. You can pretty much see where it's going from the beginning--though there are twists along the way. Alcante does a good job of showing the pressure Paris is under to succeed, and how his years as a champion affect his decisions. He's been on top for ten years, coasting and living off his success. To suddenly have that position threatened frightens him.
The conflict between Paris and his brother, Hector, is also well-developed. Also a runner, Hector has been banned from the sport because he was caught doping. His jealousy and resentment are evident from the beginning, yet there are also moments that show he genuinely loved his brother. The fact that Paris considers himself "superior" to Hector comes through in little moments. There is a great scene showing the two men racing on the beach at night that sums up their whole relationship and history.
Radovanovic's art complements the script perfectly. It's not flashy, but it is effective. The character designs are almost styled as caricatures, but the emotions on the characters’ faces come across as very real. Though the panels are, in general, smaller and tighter than readers of DC and Marvel comics are used to seeing, there's an open spaciousness to them. They aren't cramped or crowded. Radovanovic focuses on the important details, and he makes everything else in the frame subservient.
Gluttony is a bit more complex. There are more characters and storylines to keep track of, though they all fold back into Teze's. Adopted by a French doctor and saved from death by starvation in Africa, the adult Teze struggles with his feelings of indebtedness and loyalty to his adoptive father even as he's beginning his own family with his wife. His dual role as a son and a father plays a major part in the story.
Given the focus on mad cow disease and how animals are treated, this book could make a vegan of many readers. Alcante doesn't shy away from the details of what goes on in a slaughterhouse, or about how sick animals are disposed of. He also deals in a realistic manner with the politics of agriculture and the country's economy. The attempts by his politicians to spin the situation are chillingly authentic.
Like Radovanovic's, Dupré's art is understated. His characters come in a variety of shapes, colors, and ages--and they look like the people next door, which is one of the reasons why this particular volume is so chilling. This story isn't happening to strange, god-like beings. People like you and me are getting sick and dying.
In one wonderful sequence, a father and son try to save a calf from slaughter. The two of them could have walked out of the local Ace Hardware. Their clothes, hair, and truck are all average. The reader can relate to them. The scene is told almost completely without words, yet the reader can easily identify what each character is feeling and thinking through expression and pose.
The coloring in both books is beautiful. The blues and whites in sunlit panels practically glow. The reds and oranges of fires are hot and demonic looking. Grey panels are oppressive without being muddy. While not “Technicolor,” the books do have a sharp, bright look to them.
If you enjoy stories "ripped from today's headlines," check out Pandora's Box. Each volume tells an accessible, interesting, and thought-provoking tale.
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