Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: JD Faith
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.