A cult of hooded villains powered by violent blows to the crotch. A lizard demon named Charles. An elfin medicine man known only as Zen. Welcome to the bizarre world of Innocent, a recent graphic novel from King Tractor Press.
Part Captain Britain, part Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and part Highway to Heaven (in a weird, brutal, absurd kind of way), Innocent is the story of a fallen angel who teams up with a bald, burly sociopath to set the world right. Yet where the divine duo of the early-eighties morality drama rarely found it necessary to parse the shades of gray that linger between good and evil, the basic tension that drives Innocent forward is that the title character is anything but that which his name implies. Yes, he can sniff out evildoers with uncanny precision, but his methods for bringing said evildoers to justice borders on… well, evil. As the fallen angel eventually laments, “It’s hard to fathom peace while looking through bloody eyes.” Wry commentary on American foreign policy, perhaps?
Equal parts magic and mayhem, the book reads like a frenetic walking tour through the graphic styles of classic indie comics from the late-eighties and early nineties. As the duo’s adventures progress, clean line drawings give way to wispy, ghost-like sketches and then to a style that borders on manga. This, of course, is because each chapter has been drawn by a different artist, the effect of which is to put a new visual spin on the main characters every twenty pages or so. In other words, we get to see Innocent evolve through a number of incarnations as his adventures continue. And continue they do.
Or at least I hope they do. The graphic novel ends with a cliffhanger in which the fallen angel’s life hangs in the balance. On one hand, it can be argued that this strategy robs the overall story of its natural arc; we’re not getting a graphic “novel,” technically, but an installment of one. On the other hand, however, by raising more questions than it answers, this volume does a nice job of planting the seeds for many adventures to come and certainly left me wanting more.