Monday, May 11, 2015

Horror On A New Level With The Chair

Since I started blogging about comics I have put myself out to network on social media and have been more than successful in my endeavors.  I have joined groups and followed some really amazing artists and writers.  My luck has by no means run out and the proof is in a few of the posts I have put up like Salvagers, Summons, and now The Chair.

The Chair is a graphic novel for people seventeen years and up, roughly a hundred and twenty pages long, and is largely the brain child of Peter Simeti.  Simeti is the responsible party for; creator, writer, gray tones, letters, and cover colors.  Kevin Christensen is the penciler, contributor on act six, and cover pencils.  Erin Kohut edited this book, but as I stated this is largely Peter Simeti’s baby.

The Chair is an Alterna Comic production where Simeti is the president and publisher.  I imagine those two titles carry a ton of responsibility and after a quick peek at the Alterna website I can confirm that statement with impunity, Alterna has at least eight different comics and two different movies, and that was just from the first page of their website.  Right off the bat I see that Peter Simeti has a handful just dealing with other people’s creative properties and I commend him for finding the time to stick with doing his own.  The Chair is not only a large graphic novel it’s being turned into a movie as well, kickstarter has been quite generous to a lot of artists looking for help and this project is no exception.  I have a lot of respect for the people that run their kickstarter’s but I also have a ton of respect for those that contribute.  If I was a millionaire I would troll kickstarter repeatedly but knowing that many of the people that give are just as broke or more broke than I am warms my heart.  

The first thing I noticed about The Chair’s cover is that it’s different from the inside but in a similar tone.  The cover is somewhat colorful compared to the charcoal looking inside.  I’m color blind but even I can tell the slight tones of blue and red and the way that they blend nicely with the charcoal look.  The inside of this book is something reminiscent of an art school style charcoal portrait piece, the type of portrait that naked people come and model for.  The style is actually pretty amazing and clean on the eyes, dark and brooding, like the story.

The graphic novel is actually volume one featuring original published works from The Chair #1 - #4.  There are 6 parts to this book and as I said the page count runs into the hundreds so this review will be much less in depth than my normal reviews.

As act one starts we are given a little overview of what the situation is and a bit of a back story of how the main character, Sullivan, ended up sitting on death row.  Simeti starts by painting a picture of what I would consider the most awful prison experience ever; multiple bodily fluid laced food trays, screaming and scary fellow inmates, and worse of all, the knowledge that you are one of the only innocent people in the place, guards included.  The introduction is solid to say the least, it gives a vivid picture of the horror that would be prison, but it also sets up the empathy we readers need with Sullivan.  Sullivan is a good guy that was wrongly accused and without that simple fact this book wouldn’t carry as much weight as it does in the beginning, and the story really does depend on it.  Because of the first act I’m already invested in Sullivan and I really feel his situation.  Another thing that is done well in act one is the hints to the horrors to expect.  The pee and spit in the food is really pretty mild compared to how act one ends, with a guy chained to a wall with no legs.  The foreshadowing is thick and the setup is solid, couldn’t ask for more from the first act. 

Act two starts to get a bit more in depth with Sullivan and some of the other inmates.  The key behind the new character introductions is that it has a similar feel to it as the first act.  Sullivan has the guy that he hates, the guy that is the child killer, but through his time in prison he befriended a decent guy named Jimmy that was in a similar situation as he was.  Jimmy was a soldier that got caught up in a scenario that landed him right next to Sullivan and was quite possible Sullivan’s only reprieve from the hell he lived, so of course he got killed immediately.  Jimmy’s death was a real slap in the face for me, I was starting to think that maybe Sullivan had a break coming, but that idea was quashed quickly.  As I read on I understood the reason they took Jimmy so fast, Simeti needed an excuse to push Sullivan to the brink, or at least appear that it was the brink.  Sullivan’s pain just pushes him to murder a janitor sent to clean his cell and I think this is significant for a few reasons; it proves that the absolute horror he lives in day to day is real, and it gives Simeti a reason to introduce us to the real evil in the story.  

Act three is exactly what I expected after seeing the end of act two where Sullivan is strapped to a table.  The warden or the guy named Enrik I assume to be the warden, has Sullivan strapped in for the first round of torture.  Over all the torture is fairly standard, Enrik just pulls him a bit and sends him back to his cell to stew over Jimmy’s death and listen to the other torture subject as he gets cut up piece by piece and limb by limb.  At this point I get the feeling of desperation that Sullivan has to be feeling, he can’t even have a friend without them killing him.  The third act is not really different from the second it just gets more into the pain and suffering and ramps up the torture.  I can’t complain about the pace, it continues to climb the story and adds new characters like Enrik.  I get the feeling the story is about to really kick off in act four.

I completely believe in the monster inside all of us but the way Simeti paints the guards and Enrik I can’t help but to wonder how many of us let our evil out like the guards in this book.  Simeti has shown the guards to be heartless as can be and has made several references to the guards referring to Sullivan and other inmates as animals and the more I see of the guards the more I wonder who the real animals are.  Act four doesn’t introduce anymore characters but the theme of the book is so real and only emphasized by the continuation of the story.  Nothing much different happens but some things are revealed; the warden Enrik is new and brought on all of the horrible things, and Sullivan has been in that hell hole for about a decade. 

As act five starts the first image is a sadistic portrait of Enrik.  I have minced no words in saying that the theme of this book is dark and brooding but the portrait of Enrik is downright creepy looking.  So far this guy encompasses everything that scares the hell out of me, a man in high position abusing his power over people with a horrible torturous mind.  When I started act five I thought that it would be a little more of the same but Simeti switched things up.  Sullivan isn’t just some good family guy, he has a checkered past.  Simeti shows a small glimpse into Sullivan’s past and reveals some pretty horrible things before he returns back to Enrik telling him to enjoy his last moments.  The new revelations of Sullivan and his true nature have got my head twisted around, I’m not sure what to believe and I can’t figure out who the real evil one is.  I’m fairly confused and my feelings about Sullivan have been flipped but I wasn’t ready for the end and the real bomb shell.  Sullivan kills a guard and through flashback’s we see that he is really just a cold killer but as they sedate him the thought bubble said, “How the hell can I execute my own brother?”  I know, mind blown, right?  At this point in the story I have been up and been down, I have seen a good man turn to a devil, and a devil at least make me question his actual intentions.

What a twist, what a way to start the last act.  Enrik is a Sullivan too and everything we have seen about him is through the eyes of a sick man.  The reality of the situation is something out of real life, a paranoid schizophrenic seeing life the way he does, nowhere near reality, and the guilt ridden family member watching him deteriorate.  Sullivan did it, he killed a ton of people, but he was not just sick he was crazy, and his brother clearly carried plenty of guilt over his little brother’s faults.  Some of the feeling from both brothers is surreal and I more than sympathize but at this point I have to stop with the review and leave this review with this.  The reveal of the reality and the twist of Enrik being a good guy and Sullivan being his brother is only magnified as the book comes to an end.  I can’t spoil the ending but I will say one thing about it… In-freaking-credible. 

This book is fabulous to say the least; it has not only great dialog and wonderful story telling it has social norm overtones that really get the brain cells working.  The way Simeti writes and paints Sullivan only to switch it up is pretty amazing to me.  As a writer I have a hard enough time making my characters not boring and Simeti not only makes his characters not boring he makes them so complex it takes nearly two or three reads to understand what really happened.  The character development of this book is so complex and done so well that I can see why Simeti decided to try to make it a movie.  The actors must have read the script and flipped out, this sort of story is something the most talented people on Earth search for.  I truly envy Simeti, not only does he run a nice comic company he followed his dreams of making comics, and ran a successful kickstarter so he could turn that comic into a movie as well.  It might sound easy but trust me; turning comic scripts to movie scripts and transforming properties across platforms is actually very hard to do.  Because of this fact I happen to admire Simeti even more.  As far as the book is concerned I highly recommend it but I would also suggest sticking with the mature seventeen and up rating because there is killing and adult themed things.  I enjoyed the book a lot and the way it flows impresses me, I can’t wait to see what they have planned for the movie.  If the movie is similar to the book, which I assume it will be, the twist will have you on the floor rolling around in disbelief.  This book is seriously worth the read and it actually flows pretty fast considering it’s over a hundred pages, not to mention it would be worth reading before watching the movie to compare the styles.  

I can’t say enough about Simeti and the work he must have put into this book and all these related projects, it’s hard enough to run a company but it’s on a whole other level to do that and maintain two of your own projects at the same time.  If anyone reading considers themselves a supporter of indie comics I really think you should support The Chair because it represents not just comics but the way comics make it to the big screen as well and that is very important for indie comic creators as well as indie movie makers.  Everyone involved with the book and the movie deserve a pat on their back for all of the effort and they deserve your business as well. 

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