Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chronicles of Wormwood Volume 2: The Last Battle (2011)

There's a term used throughout this collection, "bitching out." Maybe it's an English thing, but that means something else entirely in the States. In what appears to be a prophylactic self-criticism, The Last Battle pussies out in a variety of ways, and seems to ask that you not judge it too harshly as it does so. What I'll be doing in this review is bitching out.

The first volume was like a Cliff's Notes encapsulation of Ennis' career long assault on Christian hypocrisy, as skewered by an unwilling metrosexual Antichrist with the help of a brain-damaged African-American second coming of Jesus Christ and a talking bunny named Jimmy. Presumably it was successful enough to warrant a sequel four years later with art by a higher end former DC Comics talent than was normally seen at Avatar. The problem is, after taking a literal road trip through Hell and taking on God and the Devil in one neat package, there isn't really anyplace else to go with these subjects. Instead, Ennis chose to tell a largely new type of story with preexisting characters who, while likable, aren't necessarily built for this sort of narrative.

Oscar Jimenez was an excellent choice to depict a quieter, more intimate struggle, but after the audacious comedy of the Burrows series, the disparity between volumes is as clear visually as it becomes textually. At about the halfway point, the primary concern of the plot is pushed to the back burner to bring up forced leftovers, including a primary villain with dubious motivation and underwhelming goals. At the same time, back-peddling on a concern related to Jesus also seems a bit pussy, like a means of addressing some unintended subtext by writing it out. Wormwood is still a well intentioned and pleasant enough read if you have an appropriate tolerance for disembowelment/deviant porn/etc., but it seems like a slight and unnecessary follow-up where it might have benefited Ennis to shape his main plot into something fresher in a different context. As it stands, if Rosemary's Baby had given birth to a Two Jakes, well, here you go.

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