Saturday, March 26, 2005


Usually when I think of J.M. DeMatteis' writing style, I think of the camply Justice League and comedy. I wouldn't usually associate DeMatteis with Vertigo and a story exploring existentialism, but that's exactly what you get in Mercy, a Vertigo prestige one-shot from the early 90's. Once I finished it, I could understand why DeMatteis does a lot of comedic writing as opposed to serious stuff--he does it so much better.

Mercy is a somewhat interesting, if a little scattershot, story. A man is lying on his deathbed having been injured so severely that he is in a coma that he cannot recover from. Because of the state that he is in, his spirit is able to traverse the ethreal plains of the afterlife. As his soul wanders this way and that, watching a mysterious figure referred to as Mercy interact with other lost souls, he eventually comes to the realization that Mercy is helping ease him into the afterlife by letting him witness her work.

What makes this story engaging isn't really DeMatteis narrative, but Paul Johnson's beautiful artwork. Utilizing a scratchy, scrawling, painted style, Johnson creates a lot of really pretty pictures to look at. Most of the time I would just focus on the art without caring how it fit into the story, it's just that good. At times some of the scenes came off as derivative of other artist's work, such as Mercy's nemesis which looked like a blatant rip off of H.R. Geiger's designs, but for the most part Johnson's art is stunning.

In the end, the story of a man's meeting with Mercy isn't really as interesting as it felt it could be. In fact, the end of the story forces some cliched and schmaltzy themes down your throat in a very heavy handed manner. It felt too much like DeMatteis was using this story simply as a vehicle to parade out his personal beliefs and philosophy instead of putting together an engaging story. If you can deal with this then you might find a decent enough story to read. No matter what your thoughts on the story are, however, the art should be reason enough to pick it up.

Art: 4.25
Story: 2
Overall: 3.25

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