I’ve really been trying to give a chance to new books of late, especially since the majority of my Marvel and DC offerings are starting to not impress me as much as they once did. So, when at my local shop this past week I saw a book I had never heard of before but had a few interesting covers sitting there with a “NEW THIS WEEK” label sitting under it, I decided to give it a shot. And that’s I came to have this issue of Mercy Sparx (Volume 2) #1 in my hands.
I had never heard of this series before, and in fact had only peripherally heard about the publisher, Devil’s Due Entertainment. As I’ve mentioned before, I was a major Marvel and DC snob for a while but recently I’ve expanded my horizons to trying things that I wouldn’t normally have picked up. Upon first opening the book, I noticed the section where they talked about what happened previously. This was good, as this at least set an expectation for me, the reader, that this book had a previous series. This was good – had I not known that, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book to the level that I did. The quick review of the previous series set the tone for me, and was long enough to be informative but brief enough that I didn’t have to spend an hour reading it. I appreciated that. Then, I get into the book.
I am glad for that recap because, had it not been there, the book would have been difficult to get into. On first glance, and also from the cover, the character of Mercy seems to be part devil. Based on the description of the character from the title page:
[quote]Mercy Sparx was born in the land of Sheol, a strange place between Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Against her will she was sent to our world, charged with a mission from God. A devil girl secretly living amongst us as human, Mercy now hunts rogue angels, also hiding on Earth… Doing Heaven’s dirty work.[/quote]
I don’t think that you could summarize who this character is any more succinctly. So, upon reading that, I was expecting her to be hunting angels… with a certain visual in mind as to what constitutes an angel. I was not expecting, though, that the angels in question would look like what you see in an ad promoting the Suicide Girls (a.k.a. alternative pin-up models). I was not expecting to see women with wings and halos also brandishing swords and flails (although I guess that goes with the tagline of “rogue”). And those that weren’t women showcasing tons of cleavage and covered in tattoos seemed to represent a number of other stereotypical subcultures – hipster, punk… Basically, for lack of a better phrase, no one normal. And you know what? With the term rogue applied again, it made sense. I could buy it. But at times it seemed to be just a little TOO much – surely there were rogue angels who were just sick and tired of sitting on a cloud and playing a harp and just wanted to go back to Earth so they could take in a movie marathon? Maybe an obese angel? You know, since you cover all of the stereotypes, maybe you also cover the “normal” stereotype as well.
Even with that said, I did enjoy the book. Josh Blaylock has scripted a story that was fun to read, but I think I am missing something on the book not having familiarized myself with the first volume. The premise was there and it was quite interesting, and I did enjoy the fact that even though the book uses a number of religious iconography and references, Blaylock has taken the time to at least use the editorial note concept to explain what they mean to those of us who are not as familiar with the various levels of angels as well as other religious elements. There was some dark humor within the book, and Mercy talks a fair amount of smack to her attackers as well, and they shoot it right back at her. Her persona seemed to remain constant throughout the book which is good; many books I have read of late (regardless of publisher) have seen characters switching from a tough attitude to cowering-in-the-corner type in the space of 2-3 panels for no reason. No, Mercy is (for lack of a better word) a bitch and Blaylock writes her like that perfectly.
The art is done by Matt Merhoff and it’s done quite well. Merhoff was able to take the stereotypes I mentioned earlier and turn them into proper visual references so that the reader knows what they are looking at. I’m wondering if the sometimes overused tattoo use on almost all characters was Blaylock’s or Merhoff’s idea, but it’s there and Merhoff drew it. Although I am not against tattoos at all (in fact, I love them – hence why I know about the Suicide Girls) they seemed unnecessary at times… Do all angels have tattoos? Is there a great big tattoo parlor waiting for people when they pass on to Heaven? Simply put, the subculture approach just seemed to be a little too in your face. There was some great detail on the imagery, I’ll give you that, but it was taken to an extreme. But at least it was taken to an extreme by someone who has some talent and some skill – the scenes were very well drawn and the detail was amazing, it was just a little too much at times for me as it was everywhere and didn’t really seem to make sense for the plot of the story.
While reading this issue, I found that I could totally envision Mercy standing side-by-side with Jay, Silent Bob, the Muse, and Rufus in Dogma. It’s that kind of a feeling – the religious overtones, but also not taking itself too seriously. Add in a little sex, a lot of foul language (and, in this book, I think it was overused at times by some of the supporting characters, most notably a young lady named Jesse who it just seemed out of place for and it was like they just needed to put another swear in there), but also a lot of fun. Although I don’t give this book one of the higher ratings, that’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t think it was as accessible as it could be for a new reader; I think you really needed to have read the previous volume to get more out of this issue. But, that said, I will be buying the next issue to see how it progresses. Even though it’s not the easiest to jump in on, it was still fun. I did enjoy it. And if it has me coming back for more, then the creators succeeded.