Monday, August 31, 2009

Dead of Night: Devil Slayer (TPB)

Devil Slayer is a Marvel Comics (soon to be run into the ground by Disney) character that appeared (and mostly disappeared) during a period in which I wasn’t paying any attention to comics, so I had no preconceived notions about the character. So this won’t be one of those “Noooooooooo how could you change the cape” sort of reviews.

Danny Sylva is a soldier returning to Iraq after a period out of the Army. He was a good soldier, but is struggling with several personal flaws. He isn’t in Iraq long enough to adjust to the heat when he and his men are sent on a hostage rescue mission. They go straight into a trap set by Bloodstone, a group of civilian “contractors” (mercenaries) working for the U.S. government in country. All of the soldiers but Sylva are killed. Bloodstone is more or less an analog for the real-life questionable contractor Blackwater, right down to being demonic agents trying to start a war between heaven and hell so that demons can rule the earth. I figure that’s what Blackwater is up to.

Sylva escapes from the ambush, but finds himself pursued both by Bloodstone and the U.S. Army, since he has been blamed for the killings of his men. Bloodstone is led by what is apparently to be his arch-enemy, a demon named Belathauzer. (Sometimes comic book lettering bleeds together, and I spent the first part of the story convinced the demon’s name was Breathalyzer, which seemed odd.) Fortunately for him, he runs into a “journalist” and his assistant who informs him he is the latest in a long line of Devil-Slayers (his uncle was apparently one, too) and fighting them is his destiny. Not the best destiny to have, but what are you gonna do? They also tell him where he can get a very useful weapon to fight his enemies, and only he can stop the upcoming Armageddon.

Written by Brian Keene (Darkness on the Edge of Town, Castaways, Ghost Walk), the story is fast paced, and there is even a scene of the Devil-Slayer fighting more-or-less zombies. Like most comics starting out or re-launching, it seems a little slow to get a feel for the character. As enjoyable as it was, it really needs a longer story arc to develop its own mythology, although at present there are no known plans for the character beyond the four issue miniseries. The art is by Chris Samnee, who also does a good job.

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