Monday, January 08, 2007

Of Bitter Souls #1 (vol. 2)

Of Bitter Souls #1 (vol. 2), July 2006, Markosia Enterprises
writer: Chuck Satterlee
artist: Norm Breyfogle
colorist: Jason Newcomb
letterer: Richard Emms

Welcome to the 200th post in A Comic A Day. Of Bitter Souls isn’t the 200th comic book I’ve reviewed, mind you; I posted a few introductory pieces when this blog began in June, and a few of my reviews have been notable two-parters, but I’m still proud of this achievement. I won’t spend too much time in nostalgic reflection, as that’s what my overdue second quarterly report is for, if only to say that I’m happy Norm Breyfogle is involved. Breyfogle’s art, a consistency to my reading and collecting sensibilities since I first tackled this obsession a decade and a half ago, is such a unique treat, so unlike any other style in the medium today, that even a writing buff like myself could flip through issues like this and forget the presence of those pesky storytelling words. But I digress.

This first issue of Of Bitter Souls is merely the first in the title’s second volume; I proudly own the first three issues of the initial run, but based on the synopsis at the beginning of this new installment, I missed the most important parts. The “bitter souls” in question is a motley crew of New Orleans rejects, from a crooked cop to a crack addict to a barely legal prostitute, reformed by a mysterious persuasive priest to fight supernatural crime in the Big Easy. Apparently, at the end of the last volume, the priest revealed that his makeshift superheroes were to fight in a battle for good during the end times, a revelation (pardon the pun) with understandably lofty consequences. The group disbanded, which is where this issue, appropriately titled “Shattered,” picks up. Fortunately, Satterlee and Breyfogle summarize these points in a masterfully scripted and illustrated three pages, giving this next chapter plenty of space to breathe on its own.

What I like about Of Bitter Souls, aside from Breyfogle’s action-packed, beautifully rendered visuals, is creator Chuck Satterlee’s elegant narrative. He isn’t afraid to wax poetic, and he blends his ethereal elements with colloquialisms so smoothly that one doesn’t overpower the other, or shun any readers that would prefer one particular style. When tackling concepts like Armageddon, I can understand the temptation to let loose one’s inner King James, but Satterlee tames his muse with down-to-earth conviction: “These normal, flawed people were chosen to lead an army for good at the end of days. That is tough news to swallow for any average Joe.” The themes of responsibility and repentance are commonplace in comics but seem more palpable on the shoulders of Satterlee’s embittered souls, and the supernatural fodder just makes it all fun to read.

Yes, this series takes place in New Orleans, but in an essay Satterlee penned for a past issue, the writer expressed his desire to avoid the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, as I don’t remember the essay specifically, but I agree with his decision. Should every Marvel comic set in New York mention September 11th? If anything, Of Bitter Souls preserves the mysticism of New Orleans and emphasizes the city’s strength in the perseverance of its citizens, in spite of the most personal and terrifyingly tragic circumstances. When I mentioned my appreciation of Breyfogle’s role in this, my 200th post, I used the word “consistency.” Therein lies the importance of Satterlee’s New Orleans, not to mention the will of his characters. Change is the most constant thing around, but if one remains true to oneself . . . well, you know how this one ends. It’s encouraging. Hey, if a lazy do-nothing like me can get to 200 posts on a half-minded blog like this, anything is possible.

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