Author/Illustrator: Mike Carey/Michael Gaydos
Genre: Comic/Graphic Novel
From the blurb:
Murdered by an unknown assailant, John Travis finds himself in Inferno, a Hell not of fiery demons and satanic majesty, but an endless city seething with corruption, intrigue and despair. Yet death is the least of Travis’ problems; he is accused of being Jacomo Terence, dead 800 years and the first man to escape Hell and live his life again. Naturally, this did not sit well with the Infernal Powers, and so Travis finds himself at the centre of a vast power struggle and thrust into battle with Inferno’s seneschal – Lord Baal.
I borrowed this from my library mostly on the value of Mike Carey’s name – being as I am a big fan of The Unwritten, a series that he and Peter Gross are working on at Vertigo Comics, and having enjoyed his miniseries Sigil*, drawn by Leonard Kirk** – but the fact that this is early work by Michael Gaydos (famous for drawing Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias) was also a hook.
I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being engaged by the story because I’m not usually a reader of books with plots like “[a] guy goes to Hell, and that’s where his troubles start”*** or others like it. So when it ended, somewhat abruptly, I was disappointed to realize that there isn’t more available. This is the first and only collection of a series that was cancelled after about five issues.
Plot wise, the question posed to and by the hero – is he Travis or is he Terence? – is intriguing, and so is the way he sets about trying to answer it while dealing with situations and obstacles that are completely new to him simply by the nature of what they are. Some readers may not like the answer that’s finally given, but I think it works. There’s a mystery to solve/puzzle to be figured out, magic performed, a sense of history, some violence, and some humour to be found in this book.
Carey and Gaydos also do good character work. I like Travis/Terence’s supporting cast – an old man called Michel de Notre Dame (also known as Nostradamus) and a woman named Shule Borraial, whom I found fascinating. What happens with her, added to the nature of the setting, is one of the reasons that I wish there had been more tales in this universe. The cliffhanger the book ends on this definitely another! In addition, the antagonists of this are also interesting and formidable people in their own ways.
The art, quite recognizably Gaydos, is very different from his work in Alias. Readers who didn’t like his stylistic choices for that book shouldn’t be put off this one. This book is also entirely in black and white, which is something I’ve not had much experience with apart from newspaper comic strips and suchlike. Reading a whole book without any colour was a new, and good, experience for me.
Since finishing Inferno I’ve decided that a Mike Carey story is, for me, worth at least one complete read-through because I will very likely become interested in – and even end up enjoying – it, even if the subject was not my usual fare. I’m reading another of his comics, Faker, right now.
I’m glad I gave Inferno a try.
* part of Marvel Comics' reinvention of the CrossGen line.
** who also worked on Jeff Parker’s 2006 miniseries Agents of Atlas, a book I love dearly.
*** The ‘starting point’ that Carey and Gaydos were given for the story by their publisher, Gary Reed of Caliber Comics.