The Curse of Brimstone #1 – Justin Jordan, Writer; Philip Tan, Artist; Rain Beredo, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: The Isolation of America’s Rural Poor
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: The Curse of Brimstone #1 is the latest of the “New Age of DC Heroes” books. All of these books have called back to other properties in some way, usually Marvel books. The Terrifics evokes the best of Kirby’s Fantastic Four, while Sideways captures the vibe of early Spider-Man. Damage, meanwhile, is a Hulk comic. Justin Jordan and Philip Tan’s Curse of Brimstone finds its inspiration in some of the more obscure, horror-influenced Marvel books like Ghost Rider, but it’s also a comic with a lot on its mind in terms of the modern day.
Set in a small Appalachian town named York Hills, it follows a young man named Joe Chamberlain with no job, no prospects, and a broken down car that won’t even get him out of the former coal town. The first issue is slow, but in some ways that works – it really lets us get to know his hopelessness and pessimism, through his eyes and the eyes of his sister (a talented young student who can’t afford the college she needs to become a nurse) and his father (a former blue-collar worker, disabled in an accident, now a bitter drunk).
These character-driven moments are strong, and Joe is probably the best original character this line has produced so far (more fleshed out than Honor Guest of The Silencer, more original than Derek from Sideways). However, I’m not sure the plot he’s in is that promising. The opening page makes clear that this will be a very horror-accented series, with his transformed form of a monstrous fire demon being revealed in the opening page. How that happens unfolds over the course of the issue, as a mysterious well-dressed gentleman rides into town, quickly dispatching of the kind town Sheriff. He reaches Joe when the young man’s car has broken down heading out of town, leaving him in danger on a freezing night. This mysterious demon merchant quickly smooth-talks Joe into a handshake deal to help him and the town – only to respond by transforming him into a demon and condemning the town itself to a horrible fate. The first issue has some promise, but it’s never a great sign if you like the book less once the actual plot gets going.
Corrina: Yes, the death of everyone we’ve started to care about in the first issue of The Curse of Brimstone seems inevitable. That makes me wary of wanting to read the second issue, simply because watching Joe burn everything would be predictable and not that interesting. However, the quality of this first issue is high and it may well be that the creative team has something different in mind.
Tan’s artwork infuses the story with all the pathos it requirres and is similarly effective in the sequence when Joe turns to the devil to strike a deal that will inevitably be bad for the one who sells their soul.
However, as I was reading this issue, I also became more uncomfortable with the subject matter It obviously has a great deal on its mind about the rural poor, about how they’re not supported, even by disability checks, and how they’re left behind by the rest of the world. That’s also the theme of the best-selling HIllbilly Elegy. It’s not that I disagree with any of this–I grew up in a poor rural area of the north and I’m well aware of what happens when factories close down, jobs leave, and there’s little left, save to get an education and get out and that’s easier said than done. This was part of my life growing up.
It’s that in the current political climate, where disaffected young white men seem to turn more and more to violence, added that to the fact that DC’s own record on hiring diverse writers is poor (Tan on art for this series would be an exception) and I’m uncomfortable with DC resources being used to tell this particular story, rather than stories about point of views that we rarely see in mainstream comics. Even Sideways and The Silencer, which feature characters of color, are written by straight white men.
It may be that Jordan has a point with Joe, that turning to anger inevitably destroys what you care about, and that those like Joe who are making deals with the figurative devil should ponder what they’ve done. That would be an excellent theme to this story.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.