By Brian Buccellato, and Toni Infante
Sons of the Devil #1 is something of an anomaly; it’s a slow burn, decompressed story that still manages to hit with all the fervor of a bloody hammer to the head. Again and again and again. And again. Abandon all hope ye who enter here, for all you will find is a dearth of compassion and the twisted acts of those chosen for a more grizzled calling. Brian Buccellato and Toni Infante are laying the groundwork for larger mysteries and horrors, but there’s an unbridled, seething and furious euphoria to how they withhold information in this premier issue. Seriously, this book is ANGRY. Sons of the Devil: You Shall Know Our Ferocity.
A kidnapping that turns into a bloody baptismal gives way to the doldrums of everyday life twenty-five years later. Travis has a dog, a pain in the ass job at an auto shop, a bizarre case of heterochromia iridium (one pupil is blue, the other red), a tough foster home background, and a serious case of rage. Buccellato is planting plenty of seeds regarding his past including the arrival a foster brother turned private investigator and a picture of a red and blue eyed bearded man that was taken thirty years ago. The story is paced tightly, managing to both introduce the world and its tone without spelling things out. We move from location to location within the course of what’s only a few days and focus on the current tribulations of Travis; namely, headbutting his boss and the court appearance that follows. The dialogue is succinct and brash, which is both appropriate and occasionally trite (specifically Klay’s nad Mel’s) but it never feels like exposition. Travis is still a mystery, but he’s a well-defined mystery in only 23 pages and Buccellato is sure to settle into more natural dialogue for the entire cast; you know, natural sociopathic dialogue. There’s an odd Judge Reinhold joke that’s nothing more than a throwaway bit, but it does seem like an odd choice for such a macabre tale that it takes you out for just a moment if your eye happens to catch it. Buccellato largely and smartly let’s Infante do the heavy lifting when it comes to creating emotional impact, but has certainly painted an intriguing and beautifully brutal scene.
Raw visceral anger has never looked quite so appealing, but Toni Infante absolutely kills every page. He’s the reason you’ll want to pick this book up because his art is freaking raging like a badger filled with steroids. Seriously, his line is violent. It’s reminiscent of Sean Murphy in its scratchiness and sharp angles, but it feels larger and less constrained. It’s heavy and wild as though the backgrounds are constantly trying to attack the foreground characters with their heavily inked shadows and spattered textures. Infante has highlights everything with a bevy of forceful lines both within and around the figures that increase and showcase the violence leaving no doubt as to the emotional state of attacker. This brutal force is completely and charmingly belied with his character work that features large eyes and winsome expressions. It’s really fine cartooning that is laid out in a manner that makes it feel as though rage is constantly being held back until it can burst forth with a large splash or sequence of jagged and angled panels. Infante has drafted a world that is built with an ordered, familiar architecture and then gives it new life with unpredictable linework and texturing that perfectly sucks you in. It’s almost as though he had fully penciled the issue in a straight, unremarkable but technically sound way and then went back and completely went into a rage fuel bacchanalian frenzy. He even went straight-up Jack Nicholson grin to close it out. Damn.
Swimming among the heavy inks and stippled shading (which is used to great effect throughout) the colors are a muted study in contrast. Alternating cools and warms, like blood flowing in an unlit room or a bright blue hat in a vapid Venice landscape. The colors stay out of the way during the more monotonous motions of going about your business on a weekday through arid streets and sepia toned courtrooms, only to thrust forward once night falls and the horrors of this world begin to take light. Infante’s palette complements the furious pencils and inks and rounds out the package into an eerie delight.
This is a promising start for Sons of the Devil that leaves little doubt as to just how grizzly the tale to come will be. There’s some elements still to be smoothed, but on the whole it’s a brutally fun, evocative journey into the emotionally deranged. The Mansons ain’t got nothing on the family reunion headed our way thanks to Buccellato and Infante, who clearly delight in taking their time to ensure that every blow hits with that extra level force.