Review - Undone by Blood #1 (@AfterShockComix)

"From the moment he set out that morning, Sol knew in his gut that something felt off."

People need closure. That closure takes on different shapes and in Undone by Blood #1 from After Shock Comics, that closure comes with a side of mystery. The issue is written by Zac B. Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, illustrated by Sami Kivela, colored by Jason Wordie and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

In the early 1970s, Ethel Grady Lane returns to her hometown of Sweetheart, Arizona with one thing on her mind: killing the man who murdered her family. But first, she'll have to find him. As Ethel navigates the eccentric town and its inhabitants, she learns that the quaint veneer hides a brewing darkness. She has no choice but to descend into a ring of depravity and violence, with her only ally an Old West novel that follows famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. As both stories unfold simultaneously, a love of fiction informs choices in reality, for better or worse.

It'd be really easy to compare Undone by Blood #1 to True Grit as there are elements shared between the two that Thompson and Nadler tap into. This is further embellished by the apparent time jumps in the book between the 1970s and (presumably) the 1870s, but the disparity isn't really a time-jump so much as a way for the writers to further characterize Ethel. Ethel is fiercely determined to understand more about a murder that happened a year prior and her grit resolve is buoyed by that of Sol's in her book. Moving back and forth between both stories helps to lend a sense of timelessness to the themes running through the issue. Thompson and Nadler do a really good job of teasing out Ethel's journey as well, emphasizing her impulsiveness and how it affects her decision-making.

Kivela's artwork feels very appropriate in both eras it seeks to represent to the reader. The way characters are illustrated relies on distinguished, black lines that give the physiques a sense of weight in the panels, contrasting sharply with the simpler backgrounds. Kivela manages to show the toll emotional events take on individuals often results in similar appearances, as both Ethel and Sol share facial expressions in reaction to similar events. The pages are very busy in terms of panel layout with Kivela throwing a dizzying array of panels at the reader. Wordie's colors help establish the different eras, with the Sol era awash in a desert-hued pink and Ethel's in more of a 70s sepia tinge.

Undone by Blood #1 takes an interesting narrative approach by comparing Ethel's story to that of Sol's. There's enough threads in the first issue for both sagas that readers can definitely feel invested in what's happening and looking forward to learning more. Thompson and Nadler aren't exactly treading new ground when it comes to plot points, but the way the deftly weave fiction and and Ethel's reality is very clever. Kivela's artwork is grimy in many ways, most of which work really well for the context of the story. Undone by Blood #1 offers a fascinating take on revenge and the harm people put themselves in to gain some satisfaction from vengeance.

Undone by Blood #1 is available February 12.