After the attack on the Few’s headquarters by Herrod, Edan Hale escapes into the woods along with the remaining guerillas, including Peter, Davey, and their father, leader of the Few. They’re not just licking their wounds though. The Few have a plan for revenge on Herrod. But there will be consequences, and Captain Jariks is right behind with the Palace forces. They now know of Edan’s desertion and plan on taking her in dead or alive. Will Edan finally see the error of her ways and change sides? More importantly, is it too late to atone for her sins?
The cover for The Few #4 might be the best in the series. Herrod and his Ragers are in full gear, posed intimidatingly, and colored in red which looks like they swam through a river of blood. The emotion one feels is fear, which is exactly the response these guys want while in their presence. I found this to be the most visceral response I’ve had to The Few’s cover so far, and also visually represent the focus of this issue, Herrod and his indulgent violence.
The opening quote comes courtesy of Nicollo Machiavelli:
Men ought to be indulged or utterly destroyed.
I do not know what line this comes from (probably Machiavelli’s classic book The Prince) or the original context in which it is written, but here it implies to Herrod and the Ragers, men who indulge in violence.
Throughout the series, Herrod and the Ragers appearance in a scene almost always ended in grandiose acts of violence. They kill in high numbers and in the bloodiest of fashions, leaving behind a grotesque crime scene. But why do they act this way? It was revealed in a previous issue that Herrod had been driven insane by hunger and a lack of oxygen due to the Palace’s theft of resources. One could assume Herrod’s extremism is revenge and, possibly, justified. However, that doesn’t take in account the sadistic glee he and his men demonstrate. Their introduction in issue #1 used a man’s failure to retrieve promised information as an excuse to slaughter an entire community, the back of issue #3 contains a Herrod newsletter (wait, what?) advertising the opportunity to rape women for new members, and this issue contains a scene of Davey confronted by Ragers as they talk to him with uncomfortably sexual and cannibal-toned dialogue.
For Herrod and the Ragers, the Machiavelli quote can be seen as nothing but negative. Indulgence in this series is bloodshed and cruelty. However, given Machiavelli’s questionable views (many say he taught despotism), Herrod is simply doing what is normal in a world where it’s survive or die. I have mentioned this in my previous reviews, how in a world without order and balance, morality becomes relative. So, in a twisted sense, Herrod’s actions, his indulgence, makes perfect sense. Same goes for the Palace. They indulge in resources stolen from outside states, but it’s fine because the world requires cruelty in order to survive. However, it is hard to argue this point when the demonstrations of cruelty or so brutal.
I believe, as characters, Herrod and the Ragers succeed as a cautionary tale of the survive or die philosophy. At what point does making traditionally immoral choices reverse back to just being that? When do you stop being a survivor and become a monster?
This question becomes the dramatic high point for Edan Hale. After three issues of struggling with her conditioning in the Palace to see the Few as nothing but the enemy, her ongoing struggle with reconciling the anti-Few sediment, one that allowed Edan to commit despicable acts for “the greater good”, comes to a dramatic climax, literally causing her to break down crying at one point. It is a satisfying, poignant moment topped by only the subsequent moment where Edan’s past catches up to her, hinting at an even greater conflict in the next issue.
For me, these dramatic character developments are the strongest points of this issue. So much build up from the past three issues has coalesced and cascaded into a great climax. It helps that Hayden Sherman continues to bring his A-game in art, this time with some of the most explosive, stylized action scenes so far in this series. He accomplishes this with very little, using a series of white lines for gunfire and explosion clouds surrounded by dark or medium colors to emphasize their intensity. My favorite piece of action was a splash page of a single man being gun downed. He is placed in the bottom center of a white page, orange gunfire events surrounding him in a downward direction accompanied by a barrage of bullets. It’s both a beautiful and emotionally devastating piece of art.
The color of blood changes in one scene from the experimental pastel red to a more typical darker shade. I believe this was made to emphasize the amount of dead bodies in the scene. It’s impressive, but also slightly annoyed by the sudden change to standard blood color that doesn’t go along with the rest of the unique pastel color scheme of the series. Finally, before the major showdown between Herrod and the Few, there are two pages utilizing the 9-panel grid for a scene of stealth. It is expertly used, slowly building up the tension before unleashing hell.
As for how this issue plays into the bigger themes of the series, I already mentioned how it further examines the danger of committing horrible acts out of necessity, namely that it is dangerous when rationalizing horrible acts on another side through dehumanization. This becomes harder when one spends time with the other side, seeing their humanity and realizing they are just like you trying to survive in a world that has gone insane. On the other hand, this issue justifies dehumanization, namely when a side proves to be truly awful. Herrod and the Ragers are so cruel and monstrous, no amount of understanding where they’re coming from can excuse or promote kindness toward them. I find this relevant to modern America where arguments are made to show the new crop of Neo-Nazis and fascists coming out of the woodwork under feeling empowered by Trump compassion. But how can that argument be made when their intentions are solely to cause harm to the marginalized? Turn the other cheek, and you quickly run out of cheeks. Sometimes there is no other option than to fight back.
There is no ideal, straight cut way of resolving conflict in The Few. Like Hayden Sherman with his art, Sean Lewis shades the moral landscape with an overwhelming gray tone. It often feels like there are no answers or at least none that will always be the right one. The story is deeply complex, always challenging, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review