A mesmerizing first issue with an original concept and beautiful artwork with the potential to be one of Image's most memorable comics of the year.

Review: BLISS #1 – Where Great Drugs Make For Dependable Hitmen

From the minds of playwright Sean Lewis (The Few, Coyotes) and artist Caitlin Yarsky comes a mind-altering tale of murder and a path to redemption in “Bliss” #1. This debut issue offers a mix of tragic human drama and psychedelic underworld activity. Backed by incredible visuals, this first issue could be the makings of another classic in the Image Comics stable.

“The team behind hit comic Coyotes returns for an all-new, two-arc maxi-series. There’s a drug called Bliss wiping away memories in Feral City. A good-hearted young man, overwhelmed by a deathly sick child and distraught wife, makes a deal to become the personal hitman to three gods, killing those in their way and sending memories down the river of Oblivion in exchange for his family’s well-being. Breaking Bad meets Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in an urban fantasy unlike any you’ve ever seen.”

Writing & Plot

Sean Lewis‘s script in “Bliss” #1 inspires sympathy and moral conflict in the central character and his actions. This comic is set as a frame narrative, meaning that it is a story inside of a story. The main story is about Benton Ohara’s attempt to keep his son alive by becoming a hitman and being allowed to forget his actions. The frame story is a flash-forward and defense of this man’s actions before a tribunal (the identity of Benton’s defender may be a bit of a spoiler). The issue takes place over a span of several years, from the beginning of Benton and his girlfriend Mabel’s new life in Feral City and through the hardships of poverty and illness that led him to become a hitman. This first issue does a brilliant job of setting up the tragedy of Benton’s circumstances, while still acknowledging the fact that many people have been lost or hurt by his actions. The pacing and handling of detail in this issue are stellar, as Lewis utilizes the storytelling capacity of a single comic book to its fullest. He packs this world full of unusual details and mythos without ever stooping to explaining everything. The mystery he creates surrounding the three old crime bosses/gods and the effects of Bliss by themselves are a reason to pick up the following issues. The fact that this is such a character-centered and emotionally effective story, however, is what could end up making this comic a serious hit.

Art Direction

A comic consisting of human sentimentality and mysterious fantasy like “Bliss” #1 needs some stellar visuals to sell the experience. Fortunately, Caitlin Yarsky is on hand, and she delivers in kind. The Coyotes artist draws an immense amount of detail in both her characters and environments, engaging the reader fully in both the plot and setting this comic takes place in. Each individual character looks completely unique and the human characters look plainly, well, human. They aren’t drawn with the sometimes “too perfect to be real” aesthetic comics sometimes have. They look like folks you may see just walking around from the day-to-day. This is combined with the scuzzy, almost neo-futuristic design of Feral City and the fantastical elements within that really define this comic’s gorgeously unique aesthetic. The detritus and decay of dim neon highlight the impoverished status of Benton and Mabel, as well as those living around them. Much of the setting is either desolate or run-down to signify their circumstances, as well as contrast heavily with the appearance of the 3 gods. Their outlandish alien design, like a mix of Alice in Wonderland and Star Wars, is mixed with a lavish setting that is directly opposed to the squalor just outside their door. The color contrasts from scene to scene have a massive effect on the environmental changes as well. Each new area, from the hospital to the gods’ den, is draped in a distinctive hue to match the tone of what is occurring. The visual direction of this comic is wondrously alluring for each and every page and is perfect for this story’s concept.

“Bliss” #1 reads like the love child of Sandman and 100 Bullets. Sean Lewis’s script is emotionally impactful and brilliantly weird. Caitlin Yarsky crafts a visual experience through her detailed pencils and focused panel framing to bring this unique experience to life. If this comic can stay as consistent as this first issue, then Image has another phenomenon on their hands. Be sure to pick up “Bliss’ #1 from your local comic shop on 7/22!

Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.
A mesmerizing first issue with an original concept and beautiful artwork with the potential to be one of Image's most memorable comics of the year. Review: BLISS #1 - Where Great Drugs Make For Dependable Hitmen