ANATHEMA: THE EVIL THAT MEN DO
WRITER: Rachel Deering
ARTISTS: Chris Mooneyham, Wesley St. Clare
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
PRICE: $12.99/$14.99 CAN/£9.99
COMIC STORE RELEASE
DATE: May 13, 2015
BOOK STORE RELEASE
DATE: June 9, 2015
Chapter one opens upon a horror. In a familiar scene, a preacher holds a Bible to the sky as he condemns and burns a heathen at the stake. As the panels unfold, we discover that this woman was his daughter, Sarah, whose crime was falling in love with another woman. Our protagonist, Anathema, watches her love burn. Unable to tear herself away, Anathema witnesses something peculiar: a constable of ravens dive downward, kill all there in witness, then steal Sarah’s soul.
While I appreciate Rachel Deering’s unique perspective on an otherwise classic scenario with two women in love instead of a male Anathema and an eliminated female character, I have to question the use of ravens. The raven has been a classic totem in dark genre fiction and horror, even before Edgar Allan Poe’s great poem. To distance herself from what seem to be a road of horror tropes, could Deering not have used another vehicle to steal Sarah’s soul?
The novel is filled with many clichés, including that of the wise man living in solitude who helps our heroine along her path to avenge the death of her beloved. He informs her, in painstaking exposition, of a doctor who lived long ago who follows the archetype of many villains before him: the doctor lost everything and turns to the side of evil, becoming the wretched Karnstein.
Although Karnstein’s back story is a little banal, there were parts of it that seemed worth delving into. By the time the five page exposition was complete, I wondered why I wasn’t reading a stand-alone book about Karnstein. He may be evil, but he seemed far more interesting than our heroine.
At this point, it becomes very apparent that while this book may have some distance to travel before truly engaging the reader with the protagonist, the art is responsible for shifting the mood panel by panel. The dark nature of the novel was echoed accurately in the art. Christopher Mooneyham and Wesley St. Claire may be highly inspired by horror art styles of the past but they skillfully create unique environments for each phase of the story. I found myself caring for Anathema, not because I was sympathetic to her plight, but because the art moved me to care.
As the art moves from gritty, blended strokes to a dark yet solid style, the wise man tells Anathema that she must avenge her girlfriend’s death, not by killing Sarah’s father but by taking on Karnstein and releasing Sarah’s soul. He hands Anathema a tube filled with an unnamed liquid, tells her to drink it to “become one with the wolf.” Predictably, and part of a necessary plot device, she does drink it and finds herself turning into a werewolf, thus beginning her descent into Karnstein’s mad world.
Though I may seem determined to dislike this book, I have high hopes for its next issue. This was simply the introductory issue and the fact that it could provoke any strong opinion, even critical, speaks to the powerful nature of Deering’s words and the universe she created.