Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mercy: Shake the World

   You will find few writers in comics who will challenge the reader more than J.M. DeMatteis (and yes, that's a good thing).

   Now back in print is Mercy: Shake the World, his graphic novel with artist Paul Johnson (originally published as part of DC's Vertigo line).

   It's that true rarity in modern comics - a story that's filled with hope and a positive view of life.

   The story could easily have gone in a different direction - it uses some classic horror tropes to set up the focus on the mysterious woman (or force of nature) known as Mercy.

   The story is told from an unusual point of view - that of a man who is in a coma, and finds his spirit floating through a dreamlike world.

   He is drawn to others who face pivotal moments - a married couple who are about the split apart; an elderly woman who lives with the literal ghosts from her past; and a young man facing a traumatic - and possibly life-ending - change.

   Where most writers would take the easy way out (perhaps a grim and gritty analysis of the dark side of the spirit) but DeMatteis makes it an exploration of the spirit, a message of love and hope - it's inspired work.

   Johnson's art is a perfect match for the story - evocative painted images that convey the story while keeping a unique artistic vision. From the stunning beauty of Mercy to a myriad of strange, twisted environments and the raw emotional experiences of the characters, he captures it with a flood of pages, any one of which would look great framed and hanging on the wall.

   I should add that this story isn't for everyone - there are no superheroes, no capes, no city-shattering fights between godlike figures - but you will find a thought-provoking story that is surprising and moving.

Grade: A



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