I want to like this book more than I did.
Paul Jenkins has rarely disappointed in his decade-plus career as a comics writer. He was given the impossible chore of replacing Garth Ennis on Hellblazer and survived with three years of great stories. He not only made the Inhmans interesting, but he revitalized the career of Jae Lee. His run on Peter Parker, Spider-Man with Mark Buckingham restored the Spider-Man comics franchise after years of decline.
Here, we are treated to an occult murder mystery set at the Vatican. A cardinal next in line to become Pope falls to his death. Guards who discover the body, impaled on a fence, also find a bearded man trying to stab the lifeless body while reciting Latin. Detective Charlie Northern, a lapsed Catholic, is brought in from England to investigate the case by a childhood friend, and soon finds himself waist-deep in a conspiracy that threatens to bring down the Vatican- and worse.
Humberto Ramos provides the art, and here’s where we go a bit astray. Let’s say you’re an artist, and your script says, “The bishop falls from a window, trying to hold onto a coin, and is impaled on a fence when he lands.” Would this panel be your choice?
And then, when you’re asked to show said bishop impaled on same fence, would you draw this?
I stared at that two-page spread for a while. I couldn’t figure out if the hair on his head was his beard or his crown. These aren’t the only strange choices. His illustrations of Lucille Pelliccia are positively unnerving at times.
Luckily, we get some good panels along with the bad. Ramos does pull off some interesting sequences at times, and the color work by Leonardo Olea is outstanding. I thought this sequence of Northern swimming was intriguing.
There’s one other maddening problem with this book. A gent named Bob Harris writes a lovely introduction that really sets the mood for the book. Who’s Bob Harris? You wouldn’t know from the book; there’s no biographical information given for him. Wikipedia listed a few candidates, and it seems this Bob Harris is the writer.
All in all, we’ve got a marvelous thriller with some head-scratching art choices. The strange panel choices made this a chore to read at times, but it does gain steam at the end, and it’s a good read.
Your Official WhyILoveComics.com haiku review:
Ramos makes weird art choices
Jenkins rocks again