Getting inside the mind of a killer is never going to be pretty so it’s no surprise that Garth Ennis’ A Walk Through Hell is a disturbing and uncomfortable read. AfterShock Comics are all about pushing boundaries and allowing their creators to tell the stories they want to tell.
A Walk Through Hell is a comic that couldn’t exist at most other publishers but AfterShock’s commitment allows Ennis and artist Goran Sudzuka to run with their ideas. This freedom allows the creators to tell whatever story they please, no matter how unpleasant.
Agents Shaw and McGregor conduct their interview on the convicted criminal Paul Carnahan. Their hope is to find clues about the situation that they have found themselves in but is Carnahan’s grim life story what they need to hear?
Ennis does not hold back on the violence and degradation that is Carnahan’s life story. From the opening scene with a young Paul murdering his family, to the time the teenage boy spent in juvenile detention, everything that Paul describes is the very worst experience you could image.
It is all laid out in a matter of fact way giving the story a horrific atmosphere. Even with the interruptions from the two agents breaking up the story A Walk Through Hell #8 is not an easy read. It could be argued that if you pick up a Garth Ennis comic you can’t complain about the content, by now you should know what you are getting, but some of the contents of this issue do seem to be there for shock value only. The idea that Carnahan was learning how to survive in ‘the system’ is relevant to the story but the constant revelling in depravity is too much.
The characters don’t get to grow in this issue, even though it is a life story about one of them. After the initial opening scene with voice over, you don’t learn much more about Carnahan aside from his indifference to life. The two agents become nothing more than sounding boards to bounce Carnahan’s life off. The worst part is that much of this issue is disturbing but none of it is new; it’s a clichéd emotionless psychopath.
The saving grace of this issue of A Walk Through Hell is Goran Sudzuka’s art work. His pen work is clean and precise. He uses mostly thin lines to outline the cast and props allowing Ive Svotcina’s color work to provide the shadows and depth.
Sudzuka breathes life into the characters on a greater level than the script does in this issue. His facial expressions, and expressionistic eyes especially, draws the reader into the scenes and helps them to witness the horrors first hand. It is during the action sequence at the beginning where Sudzuka’s art is the most effective but he also manages to give the interview scenes an element of life and emotion.
Svoticina’s coloring throughout this issue of A Walk Through Hell is of a consistently high quality. All of the atmosphere is created via the interplay of light and dark. The flashback sequences have a different tone to the interview room which is soaked in a queasy grey/green color.
The lettering although well placed by Rob Steen is nothing special. Maybe it’s because of the characters themselves, but the speech doesn’t have any pace or emotion to it. It reads very flat for most of the issue with no emphasis given to words or phrases. This does help the overall uncomfortable atmosphere, and could possibly be an extension of the indifference of the central character. Unfortunately, the speech becomes monotonous because of this.
There is some amazing talent working on A Walk Through Hell and the opening story arc was an engrossing read. Issue 8, however, doesn’t have the same impact and reads more like a run of the mill Ennis comic. In the past Ennis has pushed the boundaries well beyond the line but in these pages it seems like he is just putting ticks in the boxes on his ‘disturbing life’ list.
The artwork still manages to draw the reader in. All of the horrific and uncomfortable elements in this issue are provided by the art, not the script. The coloring adds much needed atmosphere but the characters lack depth and barely achieve anything greater than being a cliché.
A Walk Through Hell has been an interesting, modern horror story but is it losing its way?