Brand Hull is a lawyer working for a firm that is effectively scamming people all over the country. Brand isn’t a nice guy. He ignores the homeless, doesn’t care much about his kid or relationship, and is a jerk to random strangers. When people around him start quoting the Bible, saying he’s the Devil’s son (who knows, maybe he is), things get weird. On his way to pick up his son at a haunted house, he literally enters Hell. While others are stuck in a horrific and taunting place of torture, Brand is home. For a man who thinks sin is a joke and corruption is no big deal, Brand is about to get one massive wake up call.
Writer and co-creator Phil Hester makes this issue really disturbing. Brand’s character is so petty it’s almost sad to see such a rude character treating others so badly. And the only reason it hits me hard is because it actually happens. People stigmatize the homeless, cheat on their spouses, neglect their children… Hester doesn’t let us up for a breath once we’re drowning in the sheer emotional effect of Brand’s actions.
In Biblical terms, it makes sense that Brand is the son of the Devil, and Hester doesn’t let us forget. There is so much religion in this one issue, it’s actually rather overwhelming. I’m usually not a fan of religion in comic books, but this issue is setting up the story, so I get it. Honestly, though, I really hope the Christianity in this series settles down a little bit.
One thing I really don’t like about the characterization (it’s really well done) is the stereotype that all lawyers are a**holes. We’ve all heard it said before, and we’ve seen it, but lawyers as a group, or even majority, don’t represent the likeness of one individual. However, Hester sure makes it work for this particular storyline.
The writing itself flows really well. The story’s progression is perfect, it gives a lot of backstory, and it has a lot of heart. Aftershock’s books usually stand out anyway, but this issue is something else entirely. Hester has a lot of room to work with Brand, so it’s going to be really interesting to see how he manipulates the protagonist.
Artist and co-creator Tony Harris illustrates this issue in a pretty animated style, so characters are emphasized in their stereotypes. This issue is heavy on the unrealism in its art, which is a little awkward for such a serious storyline—until the end. The bulbous and angular art style works out really well when Brand goes to Hell. The art goes a long way in this sequence, making the creatures and people around Brand look really eerie, scary, strange, and ethereal. We definitely get the point and direction of Brand’s life here. Either he’s getting what he deserves or he really is going “home” to do even more damage from there! Either way, I’m hooked already and can’t wait to see what happens next.
One thing that gets pretty gruesome is the actual blood blister that Brand gets. I have absolutely no idea what it has to do with anything in the storyline, but at least it makes for a gnarly set of panels.
Eric Layton’s bold inking works really well with the tone of the script, and Guy Major’s colors add a lot of unsettling aspects to the artwork. Major is the one who brings most of the overall tone to the book.
This issue doesn’t hold the kind of storyline we’re used to seeing these days. Fans of mainstream comics probably won’t find much pleasure in reading this series, at least not with the first issue, but fans of alternative comics might. Horror fiends and political junkies, this might just be for you. It’s a strange mix of themes that surprisingly mix really well together; this is definitely a title that will stand out on the shelf. I’m hoping for more depth as the series goes on, but for now, I’m pretty satisfied with the premiere issue.
Written by: Phil Hester
Illustrated by: Tony Harris