Monday, July 30, 2012

“Inferno” (Zenescope)

Undeveloped & Sadly Cliché

Writer: Ralph Tedesco | Artist: Gabriel Rearte | Colours: Jason Embury, Milen Parvanov

Grace is lost and restless in a big city where her nightmares seem all too real. Suffering from a form of amnesia, she only feels empty and confused.

Her therapist overmedicates, her boss sexually harasses her and her boyfriend beats her. The world is quickly closing in around Grace but when she learns the truth of her past she might just find the power within to redeem her life and battle her demons, no matter how real they might be.

I’ve been meaning to read this for a little while, now, and I finally decided to give it a go. I’m of two minds about what I thought – it has an interesting premise, one that is by-now typical of Zenescope’s output, but it suffers from weak characters and very weak dialogue and writing, not to mention ticking off almost every cliché of single-white-female-lost-in-the-big-city stories in the first chapter (thankfully they go away, and the story starts ticking off all the sarcastic-ass-kickin’-heroine clichés). To keep things interesting, Tedesco has thrown in some pretty weird stuff, and I did think the portrayal of Hell was rather well done.

Inferno-01-Interior1The first chapter is all about introducing us to Grace, and catching us up with the world (it would appear that Grace’s sister, Mercy, appeared in a Grimm Fairy Tales story-arc previously). Grace has a pretty awful life, it would appear: she was in a car accident, so suffers from amnesia, she’s being sexually harassed by her boss, she’s dating an abusive maniac, and she almost gets mugged on her way home from therapy. The chapter filled me with sympathy for Grace, but also frustrated me – why did they have to write her so weak and helpless? True, some of her past training (we assume – it’s not clear at this point) kicks in during the attempted mugging, but still.


The story starts to take proper shape in chapter two, though, as we learn what’s really going on. Turns out, Grace is actually in Hell, one of the outer circles, and Sela Mathers approaches her with a request for help – to save one of three brothers sent to Hell, one who could have been redeemed and maybe still can be. After a quick briefing from Sela, Grace appears to reacquire all of her martial skills and confidence which, while a bit annoying in terms of story, were nevertheless important to get the plot moving – there are, after all, only three chapters following this one, so too much dithering about as Grace remembers and accepts her past would have made this a rather dull and (probably) fatally short tale.

Once she gets her groove back, Grace gets some payback (which was very satisfying), and metes out a fair amount of justice to the denizens of Hell – and every single male occupant is a misogynist, so they definitely have it coming (never read a comic in which the main character gets called a “bitch” more than this one…).


Some scenes have the feel of ’80s and early ’90s action movies, complete with inspirational, momentous montages and so forth. There were many moments that quirked a smile, as tropes were bandied about freely and enthusiastically. Even Grace’s design is a little too “appeal to the Fanboys”, as she dresses as if The Matrix’s Trinity wasn’t enough of a fantasy, and decides to be even less-appropriately dressed for the gun-slinging, ass-kicking she knows she’s got in her immediate future.


As with all Zenescope titles, this has a pretty interesting premise. As with all of their earlier stuff, it all falls slightly short of its potential in terms of execution. There’s nothing wrong with the artwork, but the narrative and dialogue has altogether too many clichés and bad lines. This is my main complaint about the series, and sadly it’s a big one – despite the great idea behind the story, it’s just not very well written.

Zenescope’s series enjoy much better story-telling now, especially with Raven Gregory’s addition to the writing staff. I’d say this is still worth a look, if you’re after some supernatural journey-through-Hell-to-redemption tale, but there are also plenty of better-written series out there. I’ve read worse, certainly, but this is definitely among Zenescope’s least impressive series in terms of writing.

While Inferno was a moderately fun, easy read, it was also quite disappointing. Zenescope have produced a lot better series since this one, and there are plenty of other publishers who have done similar stories better. Unless you really want to read all of the stories set in the Grimm Fairy Tale universe, I think you could probably give this one a miss. If you want supernatural Heaven-and-Hell comics, I’d recommend Top Cow’s Witchblade and The Darkness way before I recommended this one.

According to the final page, this was meant to continue a year later with Inferno: Soul Collector, but I’ve been unable to find any issues or mention of it anywhere except from the time of printing. Apparently, I was not the only person who didn’t love it…


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