Review - Slayer: Repentless #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"I've stopped letting the rage tunnel into me and cloud my mind with blame."

There's an inherent risk among society when people form groups. There's comfort in finding others share similar ideas as your own, but when the ideals of the group become bigger than the individuals messages get perverted. That perversion leads to violence, especially in Slayer: Repentless #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Jon Schnepp and illustrated by Guiu Vilanova.

The planet’s most badass metal band takes control of comics! The ultimate thrash juggernaut, Slayer has dominated stages and destroyed audiences for over thirty years, with their latest album, Repentless, showing no signs of slowing down or showing mercy. Based on the brutal Repentless videos, this expansion of the video story lines drives deep into the darkest heart of America, a raging road trip down a bloodstained highway, a tale of the doomed, the damned...and the repentless!

To say that Slayer: Repentless #1 is dark would be a gross understatement. Schnepp takes the story to violent depths though to underscore the notion that there are parts of humanity that hide in the shadows. Wyatt is a reformed hatemonger of sorts, struggling to escape his family's past as one keen on angrily imposing their views on those around them. Schnepp tackles this extremely well, balancing the motivations of a hate group with the motivations of a single member of that group. The entire issue is predicated on this dichotomy and Schnepp weaves the tale of revenge and redemption around it quite elegantly.

Underscoring the gruesome lives that Wyatt and his brother Adrian lead is Vilanova's art. Vilanova fills the book with panels rife with jarring imagery that juxtaposes the simplicity of family life with the atrocity of hate crimes. Adrian is depicted as battleworn--both physically and emotionally--and the characters around him reflect similar appearances that reflect a commitment to violence. And this is a very graphic book, but Vilanova doesn't let an abundance of gore overshadow the larger message as blood is splattered in a pretty minimal and understated way. Vilanova lays out the panels in mostly a grid format, mixing in a few insets and overlays to keep the visual look fresh and moving.

Slayer: Repentless #1 is brutal--there's really no other way to describe it. Adrian is a man reconciling a sordid past with the potential for a more clean-cut future, but nothing is ever that easy. Schnepp's script is well-thought out and gives the reader an antihero to root for, despite his decisions. Vilanova's artwork is chilling in its brutality yet effective in underscoring the narrative. Slayer: Repentless #1 definitely isn't for everyone, but there are a some poignant messages buried within the punches and knives to the gut.

Slayer: Repentless #1 is available January 25.