Written by Jennifer Van Gessel, El Torres | Art by Nacho Tenorio, Sergio Mora | Published by Amigo Comics
I have very much liked what I have seen so far of Amigo Comics, producing not only good quality comics, but also trying to find something that little bit different, something to stand out in a marketplace that is not only crowded but dominated by a handful of very big companies. The smaller you are, the louder you need to shout. Not only that, what you are shouting about needs to catch the attention as well. The opening dozen pages of Unleash did that for me. Where is this going I thought, as we open with a philosophical discussion on the nature of death, and the best way to die. Turns out that was a clever way to introduce themes and elements that will be playing a part later.
We meet the book’s main character Emma Spencer soon after, an average girl you would expect to see pretty much anywhere. Emma, though, has a secret. Emma was sexually assaulted in the past, and has decided her way to deal with that pain, both physical and emotional, is to return that pain back to the people who inflicted it. Emma alone though is not strong enough to do this, so she has a helper, a mysterious man who wears a costume of sorts, a strange mummy like costume with elements of S&M, judging by the dog collar and chain. Their relationship is left vague, though he seems to be willingly helping her. Emma’s ‘costume’, of red tracksuit and hair in bunches, makes her look like ‘Britney Spears evil twin’ as her first victim remarks.
That first victim is Johnny Best, a man who admitted raping someone but had been released. The interesting thing here is he isn’t written as a stereotypical ‘evil’ guilty rapist, but a man who realises what he has done and is genuinely contrite about it. That doesn’t help him much though, as let’s just say what he did to his victim Emma’s ‘helper’ (slave?) does to him. Quite graphically in fact. Doesn’t make for comfortable reading but then again it isn’t meant to. The fact Emma falters during it as well is telling, in that she is clearly not fully sure of what she chosen to do. She is still haunted by the man who raped her, and she realises she needs to find him the most, as she is still suffering from fear and anxiety.
While still digesting the horror of that scenario we meet a couple of new characters who are clearly going to play into things as they progress. The first is a gang member just out of prison, K-Dawg (or Keith, as he wants to be called now!) who is turns out is secretly working for the police as part of his deal to get released. His first case to help out on is, you guessed it, tracking down the rapist who raped a rapist. Even more interesting, the police chief for who K-Daw…er, Keith now works just happens to be the father of a certain Emma Spencer.
I thought the art throughout was good without being great, nice enough layouts that did a good job of depicting some tough scenes and taking them as far as they could go, but with some very subtle use of shadow and angles. The colouring took my eye more, with clever use of black and white for flashbacks, deep reds for the assault scenes, and murky colours for the real world. Nicely done.
This was at times a tough read, but never an uninteresting one. The writers did an excellent job of navigating very tough waters, taking very difficult subject matter and making an interesting narrative from it. Not comfortable themes by any means, nor should they be. The story was never sensationalist, preachy or exploitative, but definitely thought provoking and, most importantly, intriguing and entertaining
I am intrigued to see how this all plays out.
Unleash #1 is out now from Amigo Comics