Overview

Revelations #1

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Revelations #1

Credits

  • Words: Paul Jenkins
  • Art: Humberto Ramos
  • Inks: Humberto Ramos
  • Colors: Leonardo Olea
  • Story Title: A Fall From Grace
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Sep 8, 2005

A suspicious murder in The Vatican brings an atheist, conspiracy-theory-loving Scotland Yard detective to a place known for keeping secrets.

A man falls from a window, impaling himself on the iron gates below. On the way down, he releases an amulet, and once he’s already dead, he’s attacked by a crazed bearded man spouting Latin. Cut to the book-lined apartment of Charlie Northern, Scotland Yard detective, heavy smoker, and misanthrope extraordinaire. He’s also the friend of Cardinal Marcel LeClair, who appears at his door seeking his help. The dead man is Cardinal William Richeleau, odds on favorite to ascend to The Papacy. By the time Detective Northern touches down in The Vatican, the murder scene has been corrupted and sanitized, and the grave Cardinal Toscianni appears saying that the investigation has been closed. Northern isn’t buying any of it. The feeling that The Holy See wants the matter quickly dispensed with is palpable; but what’s also easy to see is that Richeleau’s murder is nowhere near as simple as Northern is led to believe.

The dark, mysterious atmosphere that suffuses The Da Vinci Code is just as present in Revelations, though its feet are more firmly grounded in reality. I just happen to understand Latin, and found it a nice touch on pages 2 and 3. But I can imagine that it could frustrate readers who don’t know the language and hope that it doesn’t frustrate enjoyment of the story (A note to comics creators everywhere: Foreign language is great, but a translator’s note is your friend. Use it). Otherwise, Paul Jenkins’ script is tightly paced, introducing characters, relationships, mystery, setting, and mood with a nimble economy, while also giving us plenty to read and sink our teeth into. Immediately, we’re on Northern’s side, not simply because we get a glimpse at the dark, murderous forces working against him, but also because Jenkins expertly fleshes his main character out with a rapier, sometimes ribald wit and a distinctive, memorable voice. But Jenkins also shows his craft by wasting not page or panel as he sets the pieces in place then lets the story develop naturally until its conclusion, when Northern makes the first of what surely shall be many revelations.

There are few comics-related pleasures better than a story that flawlessly balances the contributions of a great writer and a great artist. Humberto Ramos may have a well-earned rep for cartoonesque, manga-inspired artwork, but his style has transformed and takes Jenkins’ script to places a more realistic approach could only hint at. Beginning with an amazing cover evoking Romanesque tile mosaics, throughout Revelations his images combine painterly depth with an eerie clarity, as if suggesting—as scenes and settings in any good mystery do—that what may be clear is only surface, with something sinister and conspiratorial hidden beneath. The linework is as tight as Jenkins’ script, every panel pushes the plot forward, and his rain-battered exteriors are a site to behold for how they achieve the sense of space and dimension found in film noir. It’s also interesting how Ramos’ makes Charlie and his friend Marcel emote with their eyes, painting their irises black and their pupils white as if they’re metaphors for seeing what the Vatican eyes around them can’t. Finally, Leonardo Olea’s textured, nuanced color palette cannot go without mention. I’ve never seen his work before, but as far as hues, shades, and tones are concerned, he’s brilliant.

There are many more revelations in store for Charlie Northern, and I’ll be there for every one of them.

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