Has-been Hollywood star goes to extremes to stay young. “Things do not go to plan” – Understatement Weekly
Image. Jonathan Ross, Ian Churchill
I’m really not sure I can say I enjoyed The Revenge, I don’t think anyone can truly ‘enjoy’ something with such a vile subject matter, a starkly grotesque plot and such intensely unlikeable characters. If I had to just give a one word review of this first issue (and I suspect the series as a whole) I’d go with visceral.
The basic plot follows Griffin Franks, septuagenarian star of schlock B movie franchise The Revenger, who’s recently had a minor comeback with a reboot of the films that made him famous. Now 73, Franks has younger Hollywood nipping at his heels, and on the advice of his trophy wife Candy, undergoes extreme skin transplant surgery performed by a thoroughly questionable, possibly nazi doctor. I mean, when you go for skin transplant surgery do you really want someone who’s past credentials/seemingly proudest achievement is screwing animal horns into the skull of a little person, because reasons?
To absolutely no one but Griffin’s surprise, things go very wrong, although probably not for one of the endless reasons you’d think when having your face removed by a mixture between Doctors Krieger from Archer and Zoidberg from ‘Rama only with less morals.
This is the kind of story that could only be told in comics, and I keep coming back the word visceral. It’s really an assault on the senses in every way. The book practically starts with a two-page splash of Griffin’s face being peeled off, and oh – he’ conscious throughout all of it. So there’s that. The flashbacks are no better either – this is a very grim, soulless world that Ross is creating, full of fake, shallow, selfish people. There is not one likeable character, apart from maybe Frank’s daughter, but she really doesn’t get enough page space to know for sure. Even the main character is a real douchebag, and therein lies the main problem I think.
I only read the first issue of Turf (Jonathan Ross’ previous mini series with artist Tommy Lee Edwards) when it was presented in Clint, Mark Millar’s UK comic magazine, but I don’t remember it being anywhere near as dark as this. Which is weird because Ross seems so upbeat when he’s on TV! In Griffin Franks however he’s created a character really hard to root for. As his life (and skin – shudder) gets torn away from him, I get the impression you’re supposed to have at least some sympathy for him, something inside that makes him relatable…but no. Through flashbacks we learn about how he got to where he was as well as the reason why it’s gone badly for him, but this does nothing to flesh out the character, only the plot. You can figure out who he is pretty early on and nothing happens to change that right up to his transformation at the end. Speaking of which.
The final page is in no way a twist, or a surprising out-of-nowhere revelation, but nevertheless it completely changed how I viewed the book. I very much had a moment when I read it where I said to myself “oh right. Now I get what this is”. I don’t imagine this would be much of a spoiler but regardless…spoilers…this starts as a schlocky but still somewhat intriguing premise of a story, and in one thought balloon morphs into a twisted, somewhat demented origin story of the Punisher. Yup, Franks – physically and mentally abused beyond repair – takes on his movie persona The Revenger, and I’m guessing will enact some sort of revenge? Don’t know what makes me think that.
Ian Churchill’s art is pretty great to be fair. He captures every disgusting story beat in hideously bloody detail and every page is an assault on the senses. There’s blood, gore, graphic sex and nudity…just general depravity all over. The layouts are a particular highlight, especially that aforementioned two-page, face-peeling splash. He works on colours too which are surprisingly bright considering the dark and dirty world it’s depicting. This of course means everything is crystal clear and not hidden by shadows so you know, that may not be a plus…
So that was The Revenge #1. Despite the unlikeable characters I’ll still pick up issue two, if for no other reason than to see if the story heads the way the last page suggests. Not a bad read though! Now if you’ll excuse me I have a strange compulsion to rent Friday 13th Part XIV: Jason vs Frank Castle…