Saints is a strange book. It rests on a lot of strong Christian iconography, but it prefers turning that iconography on its ear, and treating it like a superpower rather than doing a deep dive into it. Depending on the method of execution, I could be talking about Spawn, but where Spawn attacks religion with a heavy hand and a shitload of bulging muscles, Saints is much more of a book about religion meeting people where they’re at.
In issue #4, Blaise, Lucy, Sebastian and Stephen need a place to go to ground, so Blaise leads them all to Albuquerque to hang out with his friends, the band Mutilated Corpse. Meanwhile, the legions of Michael start hunting down old saints and releasing the minor kings of hell, and the kings of hell deliver an unexpected message to the renegade saints.
Sean Lewis’ writing on this series can swing from bombastic to deft in the space of a few panels—the issue begins with a megachurch sermon, with as much posturing as that kind of thing entails, and it segues seamlessly into the interpersonal scenes with the saints and Mutilated Corpse that build the world. Lewis could have easily taken this book high concept and made every other page into a gigantic saint-fight scene, but he’s smart enough to know that’s played out. He’s smart enough to give us rich characterizations and especially characters that don’t play well together, and put them all in a van together.
I continue to love Mackey’s art. As with Lewis’ writing, it’s so idiosyncratic for this kind of story, with his strong line and distinct palette. Mackey has a distinctive cartooning style, and that’s something that you sometimes don’t get in stories like this—yet another reason to praise creator-owned comics. Mackey and Lewis are two great tastes that taste great together, and if they were trying to make mainstream comics, you’d never know it. Seeing things like a satanic summoning or a king of hell in Mackey’s artwork has its own specific horrors, but it’s a much different visual than a many-headed, tentacle monster that you may see anywhere else.
My one problem with this series is that it feels like it’s lumbering towards the plot. It has been strong each issue for the last four, but it still feels like the plot is just now beginning. I can’t complain too much, since the first four issues did a lot of character work and world-building, it just seems like the series has been front-loaded with it. If the series can pick up the pace a bit and figure out a balance, it will definitely ascend to that “hidden gem” status of great books that came outta nowhere. Now, if all you nerds will just start reading it, we’ll all be happier.
Saints #4 Writer: Sean Lewis Artist: Benjamin Mackey Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/6/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital