Unleash #1 is the most challenging book I’ve read in a while. To entertain is to provoke emotion and this book certainly did that for me. Unleash is the first issue in a four issue mini-series produced by Amigo Comics. I wasn’t familiar with this comic publisher until this review but if this title is any indication I’m a fan. Unleash #1 follows a mysterious girl named Emma Spencer. Early on in the story we see that Emma is not like most young girls. She’s planning something very disturbing for someone who appears to have hurt her. Flashbacks reveal that Emma was sexually attacked by a stranger in her high school years. These pages were very hard to read. The way the panels zero in on the pain on Emma’s face during the attack is something that stuck in my brain long after I finished reading. They were graphic but I think they were necessary to set the tone for what follows. It becomes clear that Emma is similar to Dexter in a way. She finds men who have sexually abused women and orchestrates a violent punishment for them. The bizarre part of this story is that Emma is accompanied by a man who we literally learn nothing about. We see him once, barely and he appears to be a normal guy. Things change when Emma drags out his costume: a mummy outfit with a dog collar and leash. This unnamed aide is the muscle behind Emma’s plans. She seems to confide in him and talks to him like he’s a regular person even after he carries out her graphic wishes. These were another couple of intense pages to get through.
Artistically the pages are drawn in a moody and depressing style. The only kind of light parts of the book are the street scenes. These pages are handled very interestingly. They’re set in an urban setting and they’re filled with cigarette smoke and people eating McDonalds French fries. It made me feel like even outside of the shadowy torture zone of Emma there’s no escape from being disgusted and disturbed.
Rape is a very sensitive subject to deal with in any medium. It brings up a lot of strong feelings and when handled incorrectly can be seen as offensive and inappropriate. This book doesn’t fall into those traps. Even though this is a comic book I feel like Unleash #1 is telling a survivor’s story. Emma is someone who used to be a victim and is now taking her power back. Of course she’s doing so in the most violent way, by torturing other abusers. But I couldn’t help but root for her the same way I’d root for Dexter Morgan or Little Red Riding hood. Unleash is the type of book that gets under your skin and stays there long after you’ve put it down.
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Unleash #1 Writer: Jennifer Van Gessel, El Torres Artist: Nacho Tenorio, Sergio Mora Publisher: Amigo Comics Price: 3.99 Release Date: 4/26/2016 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital