Review: Sons of the Devil #1

Sons of the Devil is the most recent (and arguably, highest profile) foray into creator-owned work by writer Brian Buccellato, bringing relative newcomer Toni Infante along for the ride into the life of the abandoned children of an evil cult. The issue begins with two people kidnapping babies from an orphanage. A guard tries to stop him and he is quickly murdered, as the couple makes off with a baby with one blue eye, and one red eye. 26 years later, we catch up with that baby as a deadbeat mechanic named Travis. He’s got a dog named Riggs, who is probably the new Pizza Dog in the zeitgeist, and he doesn’t want to know where his people come from, even when his former foster brother offers to help him out. The issue is less concerned with where Travis is now than where he came from, as evidenced by the main mystery--where did all these heterochromatic eyes come from?

This book is an interesting beast. The story is a killer idea dressed up in pretty okay art, but something about the middle of the issue feels flat. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the first few pages are so intense and sharp and the last page splash is such a good reveal, but the second act drags like a flat tire. It’s a weird lack of balance where everything seems extremely hard for Travis even though everything appears to be extremely easy. For example, he never found his birth parents, and his ex-foster brother shows up (who he apparently hates for reasons that aren’t quite clear, but the hate is strong) and just happens to be not only a private investigator, but one who specializes in tracking down birth parents! Who just happens to have the right business card on him for Travis to get totally fucked later!

Sons-of-the-Devil-#1-1It reads less like a set plotline than a series of coincidences, and beyond even that, a series of coincidences for Travis to spit in the face of. I understand that a major underpinning of the series is that Travis was a kid who bounced from foster home to foster home, who’s got a lot of Unresolved Shit, but in choosing to skip the 26 years between his kidnapping and the present day of the story, we have to take a lot of things on faith. We have no reason to trust anyone in this story, but judging by how he’s dressed, Klay seems trustworthy--the book chooses not to address through visual or dialogue why Travis hates him, other than a few “YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.” It wouldn’t be as distressing if I hadn’t been such a fan of Buccellato’s New 52 work, which has been rock solid.

Toni Infante’s art is good throughout, but aside from the coloring, it sits pretty firmly in the Sean Murphy/Mateo Scalera/Shawn Crystal camp--sharp noses, lots of crosshatching, that kind of thing. He uses a muted color palette that gives the series a Breaking Bad kind of suburban desert decay feeling, and that really works in its favor. Now the downside: you know how once someone points one thing out to you about an artist, you can’t not notice that thing every time they do it? Infante’s is that he uses what look like speed or motion lines to create textures in everyday scenes. The same sort of line he uses to denote a speeding car, or to make scenes with murders feel propulsive and shocking, he uses as the pattern for the ceiling in Travis’ apartment. It feels like a cool thing he figured out how to do and he hasn’t quite gotten a rein on it to make sure it’s always as effective as it can be.

This issue is a stutter-step of a first outing. It spends some valuable page space on a thank you letter from Buccellato and thanking the Kickstarter backers of the project, and putting a page to advertise a short film version of the story. If you’re going to pay for the pages anyway, why not put comics in them? The Kickstarter page has to go in, sure, but a thank you letter and a video the author expressly tells you not to watch for spoiler reasons may be better suited for a trade. Plus, then we could have cleared up some things about Travis’ history. But those could’ve/should’ves aren’t my place. This issue is a promising premise that didn’t pan out into such an interesting issue. I’ll be back next month to see how it takes off, but for now, I’m not holding my breath.

Score: 3/5

Sons of the Devil #1 Writer: Brian Buccellato Artist: Toni Infante Letterer: Troy Peteri Publisher: Image Comics & OSSM Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 5/27/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital