Writer Max Bemis, artist Eryk Donovan, and colorist Cris Peter deconstruct the shit out of the whole “bad guy kills a good guys wife so he becomes a vigilante and takes revenge on them” genre in Heavy #1. The premise of the comic is that Bill lost both his wife and his life to the bullets of an Irish mobster and got stranded in a place called The Wait. Think Purgatory, but more Uber and less Dante. He plays the role of “Heavy” in The Wait killing and using violence to keep the multiverse “righteous” and maybe be reunited with his wife one day. Bemis mines a vein of dark humor in Heavy and couples it with a little of the old ultraviolence from Donovan and Peter while also caring about Bill’s mental health.
Heavy #1 is a laugh out loud funny and outrageous satire of the old tough guy mentality. Bemis’ script makes many references to action movies and heroes while undercutting their tropes. For example, Bill isn’t good at his Heavy job because he was ex-military; he’s good because of the non-stop repetition of his work. If something is the only thing you do all day, every day, you’re bound to get good at it. Donovan and Peter illustrate this in a single jaw-dropping image of Bill doing cool things with guns over and over. But then Bemis undercuts it with a quick one-liner as if taunting the reader to not find fist pumping entertainment value from Bill doing badass things when he’s basically the gun-toting anti-hero version of Sisyphus rolling his boulder up the hill.
This rhythm of badass thing followed by joke at the badass thing’s expense starts in basically the first scene of the comic where Bill gives a teenage bully a taste of his own medicine with a powerful punch and an acid drop of pink. Then, Bill is back in office with his boss Kyle, who is yelling at one of her other Heavies. It adds a touch of humanity to Bill as a character. He’s Charlie Brown getting the football yanked out from under him, but with more violence and weirdness. Max Bemis and Eryk Donovan even take some time to riff on the whole flashback visions of the dead wife trope, and while Cris Peter uses an extra-radiant palette for Bill’s dearly beloved, she gives him such a good advice as moving on and finding friends. But, of course, Bill doesn’t listen, and he won’t even take a Heavy partner to give him a better chance of getting out of The Wait and finding bliss.
Seriously, Heavy #1 goes to some weird places and is a better book for it. It will probably take a life time of brain bleach for me to scrub out the image of an alternate universe Leonardo da Vinci, who has gone from designing futuristic machines, to creating machines to remove the unsuspecting citizens of Renaissance Italy’s colons whilst indulging his foot fetish and lounging with his cock out. But that’s the mark of a good artist, and Eryk Donovan is perfectly fine indulging in absurdity while Cris Peter adds garish colors that symbolize both decadence and carnage. Because who needs photoreality when you’ve got pinks and oranges blasting through the Vatican, and Bill landing cheesy, yet epic one-liners about da Vinci forgetting to invent bullets while he was too busy doing his steampunk thing. And when he gets to do that, Bemis and Donovan remind readers that Bill is an incredibly competent killer thanks to his hours of practice and not much else going on. But he definitely needs some help in the mental health and self-actualization department.
Max Bemis takes the dark humor of both his songs with Say Anything and great comics like Moon Knight and Foolkiller combines it with unparalleled violence and wild, eye-popping visuals from Eryk Donovan and Cris Peter. There’s also strong, Vertigo-style supernatural world-building with tongue firmly placed in cheek; think less Sandman and more Preacher. Whether you like vibing out and thinking about the multiverse, afterlife, and moral philosophy, or just reading about a guy who kills the shit out of people thanks to his ever-present man-pain, Heavy #1 is a strong debut and the comic for you.
Story: Max Bemis Art: Eryk Donovan
Colors: Cris Peter Letters: Taylor Esposito
Story: 8.4 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy
Vault provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review