The Curse of Brimstone: Inferno #1
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Philip Tan
Colorist: Rain Beredd
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Publisher: DC Comics
Review by Michael Farris, Jr.
DC’s The Curse of Brimstone: Inferno #1 introduces us to Joe Chamberlain, a disaffected youth from the destitute coal town of York Hills. York Hills had once been great, but now anyone lucky enough to have a job and a car has left. Joe is stuck behind with his father, who is scraping by on disability payments, and his sister Annie, who is studying to become a nurse in between shifts at the local diner. One night when Joe’s car finally kicks the bucket, he is offered a ride from a strange salesman from out of town. The salesman tells Joe he’s looking for towns like York Hills to improve, and he makes a deal with Joe to become the agent of change in that town. However, Joe gets a little more than he knew that he was bargaining for.
I think one of my favorite aspects of this book were the dire situations that surround the main character in this story. Some of it is self-inflicted, but a lot of it has to do with the station into which he was born. That makes him relatable to a lot of people that might read this, which I think is a key ingredient to successfully introducing a new series to readers. The Curse of Brimstone: Inferno #1 also points out the depths people will plunge to when life isn’t going their way and a slick businessman comes along with promises of restoring greatness.
There were two pieces of this book that I still feel very conflicted about: the narrative structure and the art. While I really did enjoy the story overall, I almost got the sense that we spend too much time seeing just how hard life is for Joe and then not enough time to see his transformation into Brimstone. At the same time, you really do get an early look at the type of person Joe is: bad with grades, often in trouble with the law, but he cares deeply about his family and his community.
When we get to his transformation, we almost have no idea what’s going to become of it. Is he going to be an anti-hero? How will he actually help the town? The Curse of Brimstone: Inferno #1 ends before any of that is answered, but at the same time, I get why. You need a reason for readers to come back to the next issue. And, even more cleverly, the salesman does have a line where he remarks that “no one has ever really asked about the hows and whys before saying yes,” and I think the ambiguity we’re left with is meant to amplify that.
As for the art, it often seems too busy and not very clean. Early on, I felt slightly overwhelmed by it. But it grew on me the more I read it. It seemed like someone had drawn these pages and then left them by an outdoor fire and ended up getting a little ashy as a result. The atmosphere in The Curse of Brimstone: Inferno #1 really transported me to those West Virginia coal towns that I grew up close to. And the gradual structure of the story and art working together give you the sense of a slowly blossoming fire that crawls at the edges of the paper before it is consumed by flames. With all of that in mind, the art succeeds far more than it overwhelms.
Verdict: Buy it.
I’m really enjoying where this series appears to be going and that it’s bringing up an important topic that is largely ignored—with the exception of the book Hillbilly Elegy and the discussion that surrounds it. I’m genuinely curious to see what the result of this Brimstone curse will mean for York Hills and the Chamberlain family.