Revelations #6


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Revelations #6


  • Words: Paul Jenkins
  • Art: Humberto Ramos
  • Inks: Humberto Ramos
  • Colors: Leonardo Olea, Edgar Delgado, & Edgar Clement
  • Story Title: Dance With Me
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 1, 2006

In this shocking finale, a detective who’s rejected faith solves a mystery that has defied all the clues, but loses the one thing that lack of belief gave him—hope.

Frustrated at virtually every turn and feeling defeated now, Detective Charlie Northern awaits a plane back to England with his friend and priest Marcel. The Vatican has called an official end to Northern’s investigation into the murder of Cardinal Richleau, and the woman with whom he had a brief affair, Lucy Pelliccia, has been murdered. Though Marcel insists that none of what’s transpired is as simple as it seems to be, Charlie still sees the murder as a matter of clues, evidence, and reason. He doesn’t begin to open his mind to possibilities he never would have considered before until a "deep throat" leads him into a new direction. Slowly, once he meets again with Cardinal Toscianni, and ultimately with the true culprit, Charlie learns that simple murder is the least of what the past few days have been about. Worse, he’s so over his head now that the only thing that will save him is the one thing he’s been rejecting for years—faith.

A good mystery questions then ultimately affirms our belief in an essential order that underlies things, one in which good triumphs over evil, or, at the very least, some sense of order wins the day over chaos. The mystery works on this fundamental level, and for five issues writer Paul Jenkins seemed to have a firm grasp of the essence of the genre’s appeal while weaving a tight yet complex mystery thriller that left me on the edge of my seat as I finished each issue.

In terms of technique, for the way in which he so deftly managed plot, pacing, and characterization, Revelations has been some of his strongest work in a while. In the current climate of "dark side of organized religion" narratives (sparked as much by real world events as by The Da Vinci Code), Jenkins’ has more real intrigue than most, and Detective Charlie Northern has become a compelling character in his one right, with enough depth and complexity to carry his own series, not to mention another miniseries. And as for the story itself, from early on just who killed Cardinal Richleau was never as important as why. But while the sixth and final issue of Revelations makes short work of answering "who," Jenkins answers the larger mystery of why in a way that takes the story in a completely unexpected direction. Consequently, I have two diametrically opposed reactions to the series as a whole.

Without giving the ending away, unveiling the ultimate evil behind the Vatican murders involves crossing the line from reason to faith, and because of that, as a detective story Revelations is a failure. Jenkins steadily intensified the suspense as he built an intricate structure of clues that didn’t quite add up and hunches that strained the bounds of reason. But instead of offering a truly amazing answer, one that hit the reader upside the head and yet somehow fit with everything seen before, in terms of the conventions of the genre Jenkins took the easy way out by offering a variation on the "deus ex machina" ending. In this way the last six pages of Revelations make the whole reading experience a real disappointment.

And yet, a good detective story is always about more than the chain of clues and reasoning that begin with the crime and end with the criminal. And more than mere murder, Revelations is about a man—Charlie Northern himself—and in this respect Jenkins has crafted a memorable story that subverts genre conventions while aiming at a higher plane. Without his realizing it, the Vatican murders have taken Charlie on a spiritual journey to a place where he never thought he could go, but a place that’s also intimately connected to a traumatic childhood event that has made him what he is. And once he gets to that place, he finds himself both better and worse off than he would have been had he never taken the case at all. Once the story finishes, the title Revelations resonates for Charlie, the reader, and the world at large on many more levels, with a different, ominous meaning on each one. Jenkins took a huge gamble in plotting and ending the series this way, but it paid off extremely well.

Humberto Ramos is as strong in this final issue as he was in the first. His challenges in this final issue of Revelations are two-fold. First, he has to make scenes comprised exclusively of talking-heads visually engaging. Second, he has to convey the various "revelation(s)" aspects in ways that evoke a gamut of reactions from shock and surprise to abject fright to grim resignation. He succeeds at both in ways that take full advantage of his strengths as a comic artist. As the story shifts genre gears from mystery to horror mode—with Jenkins’ script shifting focus from the murder itself to Charlie with a series of nonverbal cues—Ramos keeps us locked on the main character, his manga-inspired style depicting a wide range of emotions in Charlie’s facial features. We can almost gauge the ebb and flow of the issue from Charlie’s expressions alone. The script subverts our expectations of what the murderer should look like, but Ramos takes the challenge and makes the murderer more frightening than the real thing. And when Charlie comes face-to-face with the true culprit, the black-eyeballs white-irises approach Ramos has used throughout the series works to great effect, adding to the sense of horror that pervades the last part of the issue. And to emphasize the true nature of the Vatican murders, Ramos hits some evocative angles and darkens the mood with some magnificent shading. Lastly, the colorist trio adds a final touch with a subtle melange of secondary hues.

As much as I liked Revelations, there’s no doubt that it will read even better when collected as a trade. Anyone who appreciates a good mystery in which solving the case is the least important thing would do well by checking it out.

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