Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, August 17, 2009
      ( 8/17/2009 11:02:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"KILLING IS EASY. IT DOESN'T BOTHER ME." When I heard that Gene Simmons' son Nick was coming out with his first comic mini-series, the first thing that came to mind was a KISS comic book that Marvel put out in the 1970's, wherein the boys in the band -- as a p.r. gimmick -- submitted droplets of their own blood into the ink used on the book's print run. The comic itself proved pretty lightweight, but that stunt got the book more attention than it probably deserved.

Young Simmons' Incarnate (Radical Comics), however, doesn't need such Barnum-esque antics to promote it. On the basis of the first issue in this book series, the writer/penciler has a frantically grisly imagination that he's able to convey quite efficiently in a proto-manga art style. With the aid of an army of art assistants (clearly, the guy is taking the manga style right down to its production practices), Simmons tells the tale of a group of monstrous immortals who find themselves pulled into bloody battle with an army of humans called the Sanctum.

Chief among these creatures is an ageless teenager named Mot, who we first meet gorging on human flesh in a city alley. Mot looks like an innocent 'tween, but as his comrade Connor notes, this appearance is "some kind of sick cosmic joke, a way to draw his prey into a false sense of security." Realizing that there's something in the air, our anti-hero meets with a group of his fellow immortals at the Clubhouse of Forgotten Gods, where he's told about the Sanctum by a whiny immortal named Ripley. The humans, he states, have discovered how to kill the immortals, Ripley states, but Mot pooh-poohs the notion.

Then, of course, the humans attack.

The ensuing carnage, which takes up half of the 42-page opener, evokes the outlandish horror manga imagery of Reiko the Zombie Shop. At one point, for instance, Mot gets part of his head shot off, so we're shown a great gaping hole where his ear and a side of his face used to be; because he's immortal, he quickly regenerates, though his human adversaries aren't as fortunate. The leader of the attacking humans is a gray-haired longhair named Vincent, who swings a scythe with a fanged skull holding the blade to the handle. He looks like a refugee from a heavy metal album cover -- or a Shinigami card game in Death Note -- which are both apt.

As a scripter, Simmons takes some time getting us into the story and doesn't always smoothly manage the shifts between narrative voices that occur in the exposition-heavy first half. But once the splattery action begins, the work builds plenty of manic energy that's abetted by Simmons' and his assistants' rubbery over-the-top art. Fans of such "mature" horror action manga as Berserk or Reiko will likely get a charge out of this. Those expecting more bloodless action are advised to seek out that 1977 Marvel KISS comic.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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