Louis Falcetti writes for Bleeding Cool
Brandon Seifert and Michael Montenat's Spirit of the Law (out for Halloween exclusively through comiXology from MonkeyBrain Comics) sports a cover image of a woman with her eyes covered by a cloth and she's carrying a sword. It immediately draws to mind the idea of "justice" being blind, but it can be read another way, as in don't trust your eyes.
It's a 15 page comic, so you'd think that it'd be all or nothing, either so much exposition and dialog crammed into every panel it'd be hard to find the characters under giant word bubbles (after all, Seifert did study under Bendis)(ha) or it'd be far too ominous, telling the audience as much as a 3 hour Lindelof story (nothing). Instead it displays expert pacing that any reader familiar with Seifert's smart and macabre Witch Doctor will recognize immediately. In just 15 pages Seifert and Montenat pick up some of the most tired looking cliches in genre fiction and breathe new life into them, creating a story that simultaneously creeps you out but also captures your attention, leaving you genuinely interested in what's going to happen next.
I'm no expert in font (or even moderately aware) but the words on the title page seem like they were rubbed off a pirate's gravestone. The words hang in the white space, a minimalist touch for the sopping sorrow that follows. It's a little thing, but it's a thing that separates the book from other titles that have tried to strangle nostalgia to death (DC's First Wave I'm looking in your direction). I'm not sure if that "little thing" even has a name I could pin on it, but it's what I feel when I read creator owned books and small press titles, it's the feeling you get when you read something that someone put time into, lovingly, not just because of a marketing blitz and shipping schedule and a company crossover and cartoon tie-in rollercoaster toothpaste collectible cups.
It's a comic that's as much about the criminals as it is about the victim. On the first page, four mafia goons shoot a woman through the head against a lightning streaked, stormy sky. She tells them that it isn't over. The explosion of the gun shot and the silhouetted tough seem to disagree. Things move quickly so that suddenly we're in the park with one of the gunmen and it's hard to even remember who that was springing out of bed to defend herself or why she was murdered in the first place.
It's a two issue series, so don't expect all the answers right away, but that's the fun of comics isn't it? You can tell that Seifert isn't just paying lipservice to 70s titles like House of Mystery and Creepy Magazine, Spirit of the Law has that blood and ghosts moral grimness that immediately takes the reader back to those halcyon days of supernatural murder and morbid mystery.
The art is great too, don't let me leave that out. Montenat's art can capture the sad desperation on a woman condemned to death, the idiot bliss of a child ignorant of their parents monstrous occupation, the angry punch of a waitress or the disemboweled body of a…well, you'll see, but it's all done with the same expert touch and attention to detail. I'm continually amazed by how much I enjoy digital comics, considering how much I blindly bashed them (before I ever, you know, gave them a chance). Spirit of the Law is another reminder about some of the digital perks, the way the color and the blackness work off each other, creating scenes that haunt and linger in your mind.
This Halloween, let Seifert and Montenat into your digital comics reader for a story that'll entertain, disturb, scare and thrill you, just like the holiday should.