Writer: Brian Buccellato
Penciller: Toni Infante
Publisher: Image Comics
From New York Times Best Selling writer BRIAN BUCCELLATO and artist TONI INFANTE comes a psychological horror story about TRAVIS, an average guy trying to get by, who discovers that he has familial ties to a deadly cult. Told across three decades, SONS OF THE DEVIL is an exploration of cults, family, and the dark side of human nature. It’s TRUE DETECTIVE and ORPHAN BLACK meets HELTER SKELTER.
After a Kickstarter, publisher announcement, Image Expo appearance and months of build-up Sons of the Devil is finally here. Creator Brian Buccellato even spearheaded a short film to go along with the comic on release for the Image website. Needless to say, there was an immense amount of lead-up this issue; so…is the comic any good? My immediate reaction would mention that it isn’t quite that simple. Buccellato and artist Toni Infante seem to be working the story towards a big moment in later issues that makes this first issue a quiet storm before the rest of the series will hopefully pick up the pace.
Toni Infante’s art gives the story a heavy stylized line work that echoes back to someone like a Tradd Moore mixed with Sean Murphy. Nestled in the back of these pages is a horde of detail including multiple fixtures within the room itself. Infante’s layouts are impressive as well. He approaches the page by letting panels bleed out for texture purposes. One of the best parts of the issue is when Infante is given the mileage to muck around with the tone of the comic, adding a canine in the story. This presents a lot of potential for him to draw a pretty interesting looking devil via his excellent representation of the other creatures — especially when the actual depiction of Venice itself is already impressive. Sometimes, the facial expressions of the characters can get a little muddy, and the characters themselves are suffering from one too many lines on their faces that are obscuring the people of California.
Protagonist Travis is a broken man wandering through life after a tough upbringing. The book squanders at first in how it tries to make the audience sympathetic towards the lead. Fortunately, the tale picks up some steam in the latter half that serves to move the comic in the right line. This comic is pretty light on dialogue, and the plotting also slowly starts to move the rest of the pieces into place.
Sons of the Devil takes place in California which may take some readers by surprise. The story could easily function as some sort of companion piece for Southern Bastards tonally. Which tangentially brings me to another point — the rest of the cast doesn’t quite pop the way that they probably should. Most of them don’t quite reach the level of above being stereotypical supporting cast members. The one saving grace of this story is that the mythological elements have not yet been revealed here. With the high concept of the lead being the son of a devil being put in play, this story may have served audiences better in an expanded page count or even less compressed format here.
It’s hard to exactly call this story a character study, the art of Infante and the mindset of Buccellato seem to contain a sturdier emphasis towards action — which this issue is largely absent of. The cliffhanger and the rest of the story present a package that seems to be building towards a deeper climb with the dark parts of humanity. It’s virtually impossible to judge an entire comic based off of one issue, especially one containing such a high concept premise. Sons of the Devil #1 is the first set of building blocks towards a bigger story.
Sons of the Devil #1 launches May 27.
The short film from Image Comics is available here.
Check out our MATT CHATS column with the author.