Andrew Guilde and Camilo Ponce’s Man of Sin is a book that had me hooked before I even cracked its front cover. Some of that is thanks to the enticingly ethereal nature of said front cover’s art, but mostly it had to do with its subtitle: “An Antichrist Story.” I love antichrist stories! I know that sounds weird, but I guess I’ve just got a thing for evil versions of... things: Captain Pollution, Negaduck, Faker: the evil, blue-hued robotic He-Man imposter, and yes, even the devilish foil for Jesus H. Christ. There’s something compelling about that conceit, the treatment of which I usually can’t pass up. Hell, you could call a book My Little Pony: An Antichrist Story, and I would read that shit. Of course, just because a book touts something I love doesn’t automatically mean it’s good. So, is Man of Sin a worthy addition to the divine doppelgänger sub-genre, or is it simply a pale imitation of something better?
Plot-wise, Man of Sin tells the story of a father / husband named Damien (of course it’s Damien), whose life is cast into chaos after his son, Jordan, goes missing. If that wasn’t enough, Damien’s wife, Diane, has also left him over their loss (shades of Birthright). But the worst of it is a mystery of Jordan’s last phone message to his father; the last time he was heard from by anyone. In it, a voice in the background says, “Hello, Jordan” as the phone then goes dead.
Maddeningly, however, only Damien can hear this voice in the recording, making his friends, family and the police dismiss him as crazy. As Damien slinks ever more deeply into delusion and depression, the only things keeping him going are his friend, Jude, who knows more than he is letting on, and an unnamed apparition in white, who visits Damien in a hallucination to tell him that he knows where Jordan is, and more importantly, who took him.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story, even though its promises of “Adventures in Antichristery” have, as yet, been nominal at best; largely relegated to an opening sequence of fire and presumed sacrilege, the aforementioned figure in white, and a few thinly-veiled biblical name choices. Still, this is just the first issue, and the pure psychological thriller it sets up intrigues me in a way similar to films like Caché or The Changeling, which also offer enticingly twisted stories about disappearance, identity and comeuppance.
While navigating his readers through an intentionally convoluted framework, Guilde does a great job in writing his dialogue organically, not only making you feel something for Damien, but also making his journey feel like an affecting one, however infuriating it may be. My only real complaints are, firstly, that some of his character names, as I alluded to above, come across as a bit too on the nose (i.e., Damien, and Jude’s last name). But then, this is meant to be an antichrist story, so that kind of heavy-handedness is somewhat forgivable.
Man of Sin also jumps around a lot in time, with only an introductory pair of headings at the beginning of the issue indicating “now” and “Twenty Four Hours Ago.” To be fair, its trip through time is otherwise handled quite well, as timeline shunts are alternately expressed by an absence of color for the past, and the inclusion of the book’s subdued palette for the present. Again, it never gets so bad as to take the reader out of the story, but it does sometimes affect a few slight missteps in pacing.
Speaking of palette, and the book’s visual direction more broadly, artist Camilo Ponce is doing some exceptional work in Man of Sin. Whether in his figure work or the oscillating tatter of his page landscaping, his is a style that fades in and out of solidity, often unravelling more loosely into a sketchy, almost impressionistic or confined expressionistic verve. This direction works well, thematically speaking, in a story about a man grasping at his last threads of sanity and the surreal nature of his situation.
His art here reminds me of the ethereality in the work of Alison Sampson, but tighter, and with a dash of Ben Templesmith (circa Fell) and Riley Rossmo. That is some good company to be in if you ask me; and while it may still be developing, I’m already enjoying the way Ponce hews his images from the page, let alone his tempered approach to color, which I discussed earlier and absolutely love.
So, in the end, while there are elements in place to shape it this way later, Man of Sin is hardly the apocalyptic apocrypha for which I was hoping. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a damn enjoyable start to a book that I aim to continue reading. Guilde and Ponce haven’t been on my radar before, but they most definitely are now, and they - not to mention Man of Sin - should be on yours, too.
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Man of Sin #1 Writer: Andrew Guilde Artist: Camilo Ponce Self-Published Price: Free! When you sign up for a news letter Format: Mini-Series; Digital/Print (on Kickstarter)
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