Vir­gil

Comic Heroes - - Comics We Rate - Dave Bradley

Writer: Steve Or­lando

Artist: JD Faith

Pub­lisher: Im­age

For­mat: Graphic novel

There’s vengeance on the streets of Ja­maica in this gritty orig­i­nal graphic novel.

With its vi­brant pan­els of yel­low and purple and its ex­plo­sive mo­men­tum, Vir­gil is a lin­ear but sat­is­fy­ing re­venge story set in mod­ern Kingston.

Vir­gil is a po­lice of­fi­cer, part of a ma­cho cul­ture that shakes down petty crim­i­nals and cel­e­brates in the lo­cal brothel. But Vir­gil is also gay and in love with his boyfriend Er­van. Prej­u­dices against ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity still run very deep in Ja­maica – same-sex acts can score you 10 years in the clink. One evening Vir­gil’s home is stormed, his friends mur­dered, his part­ner kid­napped and his face leaked to the pa­pers in shame. So, in the best pulp tra­di­tion, Vir­gil goes on the ram­page, gun­ning down crooks and cops alike un­til he finds out where Er­van is be­ing held.

The book was funded on Kick­starter (216 back­ers pledged over $17,000 ear­lier this year) and the au­thor’s stated in­ten­tion is to cre­ate a work of “queer sploita­tion”, a gay take on the mus­cu­lar blax­ploita­tion tales of the 1970s.

Be­hind the gun­fire and fury there are mo­ments of gen­uine ten­der­ness and con­vinc­ing glimpses of a re­la­tion­ship that’s been forced to take place be­hind closed shut­ters.

You’ll quickly get used to the Ja­maican slang but you don’t quite get a sense of char­ac­ters be­yond Vir­gil and Er­van – in­deed many of his treach­er­ous col­leagues in the po­lice force feel like face­less vil­lains. And some­times the word­less, static im­ages don’t do the de­struc­tion jus­tice; the more may­hem-filled pan­els could stand to be big­ger and bolder.

But this is a hand­some page­turner, and its fran­tic, elec­tric pages use a shoot-’em-up theme to high­light what re­mains a vi­tally im­por­tant mes­sage. In tack­ling a mod­ern prob­lem in an ag­gres­sively old-fash­ioned way it demon­strates how well comics are ca­pa­ble of telling chal­leng­ing sto­ries while re­main­ing grip­ping, ac­tion-packed en­ter­tain­ment.

Vengeance and bru­tal­ity on the streets of Ja­maica.

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