In Review: Pestilence: A Story of Satan #5

This conclusion is beautiful, horrible, graphic, and awesome. Highest possible recommendation.

The cover: Three soldiers of the undead are before the reader. On the right half of the image one creature’s face can be seen, its orange eye adding to the ghastliness of its face. In the middle, a skeleton head is in profile as it turns to its right to look at the decayed creature with a rat on its shoulder. Behind all three is the Grim Reaper holding his scythe upright. The infamous character’s face is a dirt covered skull, though his teeth are brightly white. This is a great creepy cover from artist Tim Bradstreet. Overall grade: A+

The story: Frank Tieri is the writer of this issue, with the story created by Eric Bromberg, Brandon Auman, & Tieri. The beginning of this series has finally caught up to the present, with the letter that opened the first issue reprinted, accompanied by the assassin’s trip. Dead men litter the hallways and stairs leading to the pope who is looking out his window at the faithful. Next to the pope is a young boy, Abel Helms, the son of Knight Roderick and wife Jacqueline. Blending in with the other cloaked figures in the room, the assassin is able to maneuver himself behind the religious figure and grab him by the shoulder. He pulls the holy man, spins him, so that he is facing his hooded flock — and the assassin’s back is to the window, and places a dagger at the man’s throat. The story then moves to England, Spain, Germany, and France. The reborn King of Darkness has created horrors everywhere, with bodies being torn apart and exploited in ways I won’t describe. In a nutshell, it’s literally hell on Earth now. And where is the book’s protagonist, Roderick Helms? On a journey of vengeance. This issue moves very quickly, but none of the story is rushed. Roderick’s quest in the opening is exactly that of what a worried parent, who has the means, would do. I knew on Page 12 what was going to happen and still I was surprised by what followed. The pope’s dialogue is fantastic on 13. Even if it didn’t have that killer look to it, it would have thrilled me. The comments at the bottom of 17 are great, but even they give way to a heartfelt reunion on 18. The summary on 19 is good, but the promise made in the last dialogue balloon of the issue has me hyped for more. I’m standing and applauding this conclusion even though I don’t want this to end! Overall grade: A+

The art: I must remain standing for the outstanding work done by Oleg Okunev on the artwork. The journey up the stairs, charting the assassin’s path instantly thrusts the reader into the story, ending with the target motioning to the crowd. The light source in the first panel on Page 2 gives the pope a definite holy countenance. However, as Okunev pulls in tighter to the pontiff, notice how his face looks horribly aged and that there are no pupils in his eyes, a sign that this man may not be innocent. I love the reveal of Abel next to the pope and that he is the one that first sees the assassin’s blade. His look of shock is great in the third panel, though it may not just be because of this killer’s goal. I like that the pope is also surprised at the assassin’s action. The final panel of the page shows God’s chosen gritting his teeth as the blade goes to this throat. But look at his face: it has a lot of line work on the cheeks and chin, creating a skull-like appearance. If one hasn’t been reading this series, this could be a surprise. For those faithful that have been following, Okunev is tipping a story point to those characters who are unaware. The fourth page shows the carnage occurring in other countries. Its horrors are many and they are superbly drawn. They are undeniably graphic and solidify that this could be the end of days. On one page a knight’s eyes are gouged out and with the turn of the page, 6 begins with an intense close-up of Roderick’s eye reflecting what he’s seeing. This is a very cool transition and a fantastic way to visually link the two settings. Horses can be the bugaboos of some artists, but the beasts are looking strong under Okunev’s direction. The actions on 6 – 8 are outstanding. The look in the second panel on 12 is beautiful and screamed to the reader what was coming next. The pope’s looks on 13 are excellent and wonderful on 15; I so wanted to see fear on his face and Okunev delivered! The assassin’s stance on 15 is beautiful and wonderful. The reactions by the characters at the end of 17 are perfect. The first two panels on 19 are excellent in showing the after effects of the climax. The large panel that ends the book is beautiful and the last character shown tells so much to the reader with just that look. Bravo, Mr. Okunev! Overall grade: A+

The colors: There are three different colorists on this issue, but none are credited to specific pages. I wish that they had been so that I could direct my comments specifically to Guy Major, Michael Garland, or Marko Lesko. The first panel is given browns and tans to age it like ancient parchment and these colors continue charting the assassin’s path. A pale sky blue breaks up these dead colors the closer the protagonist gets to the pope. When the pontiff is first shown blue dominates for the sky, while the holy man wears red to draw attention. The yellow boxes for the letter’s text draw attention and age the words well. I like that the yellow of these boxes matches the yellows worn by the pope, solidifying a connection between the two. The graphic scenes on 4 and 5 are each ruled by one color, though there are many shades of the colors in each country. Doing so negates some of the visual horrors while showing how the terrors have blanketed those countries. The scenes at night are colored in blues to create the evening, which is much better than using blacks that would overpower the art. When the pope speaks his dialogue balloons have a deliciously devious border around them to show he is not what he seems. The book ends with a gorgeous yellow sky and a stunningly colored element. These colors rock. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Marshall Dillon is responsible for this issue’s handwritten letter, dialogue and narration (the same font), yells, sounds, weakened speech, the pope’s speech, and the last four words. The handwritten letter is a wonderful visual for bringing the reader into the time period and having it appear in spurts gently moves the reader along. I often go off on letterers that use the same font for dialogue and narration, since it is two different forms of communication it should be different looking, but they don’t need to be differed here as the person who gives some brief narration is most likely retelling it to one of the book’s survivors. The sounds are awesome for all sorts of horrid actions, the weakened speech is readable and conveys the speaker is not at their best, and the pope’s dialogue is a match for his dark heart. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Nope. Sorry, AfterShock. This can’t be the end of Roderick’s exploits. This series is fantastic. This conclusion is beautiful, horrible, graphic, and awesome. The ending of this series is a perfect return to its beginning, going someplace absolutely unexpected. I love everything about this: story, art, colors, letters, and cover. Pestilence should never end and I look forward to its, hopeful, return. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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