Overview

Pogrom #1

Review

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Pogrom #1

Credits

  • Words: Matthew Tomao
  • Art: Josh Medors
  • Inks: Josh Medors
  • Colors: Robbie Ruffolo
  • Story Title: Visions of Vice
  • Price: $5.99
  • Release Date: Mar 12, 2008

One of the toughest reviews I’ve had to write in quite a while, Pogrom is a difficult book to define.  It’s daringly different, but does it succeed?

In writer Matthew Tomao’s own words, Pogrom is his response to the hypocrisy of organized religion (note: organized religion, not spirituality in general).  Pogrom is a story set inside a dystopian future, one ruled by "The Watican” and its figurehead, the Presipope.  The series follows the resurrection of Grand Inquisitor Sabbath, a violent military figure who dies shortly after the Watican begins a year-long siege on Pax Africana.  But the Seven Sins—seven demonic figures that embody their own personal weakness— plot to resurrect the Inquisitor, thinking to use his state of in-between being as a gateway to Earth from its toxic mirror-counterpart that lies on the other dimensional side of things.  But Sabbath proves more powerful than the Sins presupposed, and so instead of being a pawn he begins a slow rise back to power, hunting down those who gave him life, and reconstituting himself into a being far greater than he ever was before.

Now, here’s the thing: that above summation…was extremely difficult to write.  I’m not even certain I didn’t lie, somewhere, up there, as I’m not at all convinced I followed the issue’s happenings.  Tomao unwraps an alien world without, sadly, much detail.  A few nations are referenced, and the primary religious nation of the Watican is unveiled, but beyond that, this first issue, even at a whopping 48 pages, sticks to only a few central characters, locations, and events, and even those seem difficult to assimilate.

Let me mention the good things (there are quite a few): no one who’s seen the website or viewed the preview or peeked in on the advance press for this book is going to resist.  The cover by Ben Templesmith is extraordinary, and the interior art by Josh Medors is utterly appealing as a horror comic aesthetic.  The story is undeniably stacked with exotic and heavy mythology-flavored ideas, characters and sequences that can’t help but enthrall with their majesty and eerie grandeur.  Pogrom delivers on its promised elements and thematic impact.  At least in general.

But (and this is a big but) the story, as a story, is off to a shaky start.  The dialogue is purposefully obtuse.  The demon or “Sin” named Gluttony acts as narrator for the better part of the issue and his dialogue reads nearly as indecipherable as Beat poetry.  Military figures come and go from the scene, the resurrection of Sabbath occurs in multiple stages, and the Sins, coming and going without rhyme or reason, come and go without rhyme or reason (that sounds redundant, but it’s not, it’s the actual reading experience, a kind of two-fold confusion at all times, at least where the Sins are concerned).

There’s definitely the sense that a good chunk of all this will be revealed over time, but it’s no less confusing as to why Tomao chooses to approach an introduction to such complicated material in so head-scratching a way.  I’m all for fiction that engages a reader and makes him work, but Tomao seems a little too inside his own head, which understands the significance of every line and drawn thing, and not enough in ours, which understands none of the above.

Medors’ wonderfully Kevin O’Neil style hyper-dynamic scrawl keeps the eyes moving and glued, wondering what the next page will bring, though his art does nothing to illuminate the overly-challenging script.  Often Tomao’s dialogue attempts to offer details that seem oddly removed from the art, and especially since (as I mentioned above) Tomao’s chosen narrator Gluttony speaks in a rhythm and syntax demanding to grasp, when the art additionally keeps things murky, the story suffers to a greater degree than it should.

That said, Pogrom is a comic everyone should experience, if only to say “What the *&#^ was that!??” out loud, in high shrill tones while loitering at the racks of their local comic shop.  It’s unforgettable, and leaves a mark, two things that I absolutely must give as merits.  I applaud Devil’s Due and Tomao for pursuing so unique a thing as Pogrom, but for a book that holds a message, and a book that’s multifaceted by default, without the creators having to even try, I hope the story and the backdrop both come clearer, and soon.  Innovation is praiseworthy, but innovation for innovation’s sake without a solid grip on originality’s natural unwieldiness is simply a failed experiment.  If Pogrom pays off, it’ll do so in a big way, and make one killer graphic novel.  I’m hoping it falls into that category—there’re still six issues to go plus a sequel already in the works, so plenty of time.

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For some tantalizing sneak peeks, check out Pogrom’s website: http://www.pogromthecomic.com

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