Review & Spoilers: NO MERCY #1

NO MERCY #1 main cover

NO MERCY #1 Review

untitled (24 pages)

Written by: Alex de Campi
Art by: Carla Speed McNeil

Colors by: Jenn Manley Lee

Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99


[Sidenote: Thanks so much to ComixAsylum for bringing me into the fold 🙂  I look forward to providing many entertaining reads and expanding my horizons!!]

In my 30 years of seriously reading comics, I’ve finally dissipated my tunnel vision and am now seeing the four colours for what they truly are. The indies offer stellar stories that one will simply not find in standard superhero fare. That being said, I’m jumping right in!

The cast is quite expansive. There are fifteen main characters in total with at least two supporting players. The ‘Firm Fifteen’ hail from thirteen states (unlucky number?) and the U.S.’ neighbour to the south: Mexico. What’s their deal? They’re all Princeton posers, prissies, and princesses who are now volunteers thinking they’ll do a world of good in a country rife with strife.

The first ten pages are the set-up. Teens rule supreme in the 21st century. How to characterize them? Narcissistic, egotistical, shallow, self-absorbed. While that may not apply to all adolescents and stinks of stereotype, this is their exact portrayal by Ms. de Campi. Their attention span lasts a nano-second, if that. Their self-interest is a thousand-fold. With wide-eyed optimism and complete naïveté, these fourteen teens (repetition. HAH!) have zero clue what’s in store. Only their chaperon, Sister Inés, can educate them.

Once the plane touches down, the effervescence begins to fizzle. The reaction to the road trip is a collective disgust once they spot their method of transportation. The journey hasn’t even begun (literally!) and already scowls and sneers permeate the air. Various interactions take place as the reader gets to know six of the teens and more of the nun (Oh my God! Get it?) Aside from the allocated group, there is one unwelcome passenger — Inés’ uncle-by-marriage. At any rate, the classification begins. There is a loner, a bully, an insatiable male, a begrudging brother, a pretty girl, a new-age minimalist, and a weirdo.

I’d speculate that the trip has barely lasted half an hour when the driver stifles a yawn. Bad sign!! My fears are confirmed when the bus edges perilously close and then… HONK!! a truck is coming from the opposite direction head-on! Collision averted and sighs of relief until a tire is blown and the bus takes a dive. It’s a bit disconcerting to see the descent and the painful impact among the passengers until it finally stops. It’s a given that some will not escape unscathed. Sister Inés informs the group of imminent doom. Walking away is the best option. If the criminals don’t get them, the coyotes will. Inés takes point as leader. She instructs the boys to collect anything flammable and the girls to provide the flame.

Tiffani is distraught over Lily’s dormant body. Charlene approaches Inés now-deceased uncle in search of the lighter. She rummages through his pockets until she hits the payload — a suitcase full of coco! (not the hot drink either) Mean guy Chad surprises her from behind, pulling her hair, and wondering aloud why she survived before commenting on her weight. Due to this violent action, the suitcase is dropped. Gina and DeShawn are ecstatic over the find. The Quiet Kid flicks the Bic.

As darkness quickly arrives, Tiffani remains sobbing. Talk about a babe in the woods (or in this case the desert). If she thinks help will appear with the snap of two fingers, she’s got another thing coming to her!! There is no 911. (Hello, you’re in Mexico!). No rescue chopper. Her second last comment illustrates the all-American arrogance. She actually thinks that given her nationality, all other countries will be at their beck and call. As if!! A broken heart ends the last word balloon. I assume she is in love with the lifeless Lily. Coyotes are silhouetted, ready for the kill.

I really am wet behind the ears when it comes to any independent offerings, even from a company like Image. I will pat myself on the back since I now read BIRTHRIGHT and WYTCHES. This is my second review of an Image book but my first for this magazine. Either way, my point is this: I have never ever come across the work done by the three collaborators. Yet another all-female-led book!! I may have mentioned this before in my last review of the other site that employs me: I am a feminist at heart!! I truly believe women are the superior species.

Even a n00b like me recognizes Alex de Campi’s name and is aware of the many accolades she has accumulated. She’s a major shooting star. I just read her Wiki page. Quelle surprise that she has a Princeton education (beyond impressive!) and that these fresh faces also frequent that higher learning establishment. This woman has serious credentials: writer and videographer. Plus, she has dual citizenship with the U.K. Neato, mosquito!! Alright, enough gushing. Reading the blurb after the story gave me more insight into her style. She enjoys chronicling adolescents and she has their behaviour, speech, and mannerisms locked in. Being a high school teacher myself, I’ve been surrounded by teens for the past nineteen years. I get that the first eight pages had to have ample dialogue, peppered with texting or Tweeting, but boy was I annoyed by the end of it all!!! My brain overloaded. Nevertheless, her mismatched mixture of minors is real and raw.

Hello, Carla Speed McNeil. It’s a pleasure to be introduced to your art. Super-cool last name, BTW. This woman’s talents are seven wonders in themselves — cartoonist, writer, penciller, inker, editor, publisher, letterer. Thanks, Wiki 😉   Carla’s pencils are precise. Each character is definitely distinguishable from all others. She paints the many faces of humanity: eagerness, insecurity, alienation, overachievement, overcompensation, realism. Be they sad, sassy, sunshiny, or sulking, each character delivers a distinct performance.

Time to meet Jenn Manley Lee. This lady is a triple threat: artist, cartoonist, designer. Her own endeavours deserve hearty applause. Jenn puts a lot of splash into the issue. All colours seem well-balanced each teen’s style and stance. The darker colours, especially appropriately towards the end of the story, reflect a barren, unforgiving landscape that will not assist the recently-endangered passengers in any way.

I must be a real dummy because I didn’t really pay attention to the cover. Thus, when the bus started to veer off course, I was somewhat shocked. I was secretly hoping that the entire issue wasn’t going to be constant babbling by the youth. Better for me, I guess. The title becomes extremely apparent, especially on the last page. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I looked at the back cover and saw a synopsis. It’s real sweet that Kieron Gillen offered his approval on this premiere issue. I astutely observed afterwards that even the front cover has words of praise from Brian K. Vaughan.

As cynically as this sounds, to paraphrase Christopher Booker, there really are only seven types of stories. The trick is in the reinterpretation. This ‘survival’ trope will definitely elicit a lot of spice, more so given the demographic. Things will get worse before they get better. After casting aside my prejudices, I give this book an 8 out of 10. There’s enough unsaid things to pique my interest!

P.S. I’m an extremely thorough individual and don’t like to be wrong. I assume that the setting is in Mexico. When I used Google to look up Mataguey, instead I got the variation ‘Matabuey’. The latter is a type of rattlesnake; the former is a city/town/village in Venezuela. I am curious!!