© John Arcudi & Peter Snejbjerg.

I almost overlooked this trade paperback from WildStorm. The cover did not impress or appeal to me, the title was vaguely religious but didn’t entice me to want to know more. It was the creator credits that caught my attention. I’ve enjoyed John Arcudi’s work in the HELLBOY universe, and Peter Snejbjerg has done some fine work on books fro DC like ANIMAL MAN, THE DREAMING and STARMAN. On that basis I decided to read it.

It begins as many superhero stories do, with an ordinary man suddenly, for no obvious reason, being given superhuman powers. Well, it doesn’t quite begin there. Before that we’re introduced to three friends, two blonde California brothers and the African American boy, Sam, they befriend in high school by protecting him from some school bullies. Then there’s the beautiful woman, Alma, who falls for Hugh, one of the brothers, and marries him, greatly disappointing Eric, the other brother.

As we learn about their lives, the story takes an abrupt turn as as massive, unexplained explosion destroy’s Eric’s apartment building. Unlike most of the residents, Eric survives without a scratch…and suddenly finds he’s super-powered. At first he’s amazed, joyful, eager to help others, calling his change a gift from god, but gradually his attitude changes. He becomes arrogant, then cruel, and over time begins to use his powers to punish, kill and destroy rather than help others. Even his own brother and friends are not immune, though they keep trying to reach the old Eric and understand what’s happening.

The art and colors by Snejbjerg and Hansen are excellent, light and a bit cartoony where that works, grim and grisly where necessary. The writing is well crafted, the characters are real and appealing, but ultimately I found the story unfulfilling. No reason or even a guess is offered for the change in Eric, other than “madness,” which seems too easy an answer. No lesson seems to be forthcoming, other than that sometimes people go bad. In that respect, IRREDEEMABLE by Mark Waid does a much better job of making his hero’s turn to the dark side understandable and believable. In this story it seems a random plot choice to me. Yes, it’s a tragic story, but tragedy needs reasons behind it to be truly effective, and I don’t find them here.

Still a good read, and perhaps I’ve just missed the point. Mildly recommended.

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