On October 6th, the first issue of A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance from Image Comics will make its way into the world. It is a tale of contract killers and innocent men told by Rick Remender and Andre Lima Araujo. A modern crime thriller packed with mystery and violence, and yet the first issue is more measured and subtle than expected.
It’s about a man catching a bus.
Keep It Simple
In 1998, a friend recommended a film to me by saying “If you’re going to watch a woman run across Berlin for 90 minutes, then you have to watch Run Lola Run.” Tom Tykwer’s film is about split second decisions and examines cause and effect across multiple realities. It is so much more than the surface presents. Run Lola Run is a movie worth watching, even if you want more than 90 minutes of a woman running across Belin.
A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance is a comic about a man taking a bus out of the city and into the sticks and, just like Run Lola Run, it is also so much more than that. It is the perfect example of the journey being more important than the destination. And between them, Remender and Araujo present one of the most fascinating bus trips I’ve ever read in comics.
The plot is straightforward and very little is actually explained in this opening issue. The reader follows the journey of a man who, we are told in the solicit, “stumbles upon a dark-web contract assassin’s vicious plot to kill an innocent target.” However, in this mostly silent first issue, Remender is just setting the scene for an intriguing crime mystery story, and there is very little to link the comic to the violence promised. Instead, the excitement here is in the detail, the small interactions between strangers who meet in passing, and the layering of tiny events that lead to the comic’s shock moments. This building of the narrative, with seemingly unimportant moments highlighted as if they were the central plot, makes for rich, enjoyable reading on par with Brubaker and Phillips’ Criminal.
The Art of Silence
The art work by Araujo is superb, and creates fascinating story beats in a mundane world. The emotions of the characters are brought out through nuanced body language and detailed facial expressions. There is an interesting interplay between the landscape and the characters, with one reflecting the mood of the other. Despite the lack of dialogue, Araujo is able to represent a complex central character and create an intriguing story out of a simple bus journey.
Chris O’Halloran does a wonderful job on coloring duties building the tension through a shifting color palette throughout the comic. The dampened blue tones of the opening pages shift in tone as the reader follows Sonny into different locations and circumstances. The artificial brightness of a grocery store produces a sudden overwhelming moment in the comic, as if the creators are giving the readers a shake. It’s like the moment in a film where the music shifts gears and volume to make the viewers sit up. From this point onwards you become more aware of the surroundings, especially the change of color palette from page to page.
Rus Wooton has little to do due to the silence dominating much of this comic, but what he does provide fits perfectly with the rest of the artwork. There is a consistency across the sound effects with subtle placement and a softness to each sound implied by the design. An absence of bold dark colors and outlines to the sound effects allows them to sit within the artwork and not standout. You really get the sense of the sounds emanating from within the page. This is also true of the speech as the thin, clipped tails of the speech balloons do not impose themselves on the page. Each of the creators has picked up on the ordinariness of the central story and reflects that in their craft allowing the readers intrigue to pick out the important details of the plot and feed their own desires of excitement.
A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance is a deliberate slow build designed to acclimatize the reader to the world in which it is set instead of throwing out major plot points and dropping a cast of characters straight into bombastic action. The progression from page to page and moment to moment allows us to spend time with Sonny on a very personal level, even though his motivations are only hinted at. It is a triumph of storytelling and silently screams its brilliance across the pages. Superb artwork and clever page layouts make this a journey worth traveling and sets the bar high for future issues.