Virgin Comics seems bent on trying new things; creating a new kind of comics. Not the format, necessarily, but the attitude and the approach. Voodoo Child, a new character created by Weston Cage and his father, Nicolas Cage, is one of these new comics characters – and he may well be the ultimate scare-the-crap-outta-the-bad-guys nighttime avenger – a character that literally haunts the shadows…
Our story begins in the days just before the Civil War, when the country was about to split along ideological lines over the slave trade. As a group of Southern abolitionists meets, a mob arrives. Mason Moore sends two blacks, Celeste and Gabriel through a secret tunnel to safety. Unfortunately, a stray shot fells Gabriel – but a being named Billy blameless appears to announce that the ground will not take Gabriel, and that he must be hidden from Baron Samedi. Already, some voodoo deity is taking a hand in the life and death of Gabriel…
Cut to present day, post-Katrina New Orleans. As relief is withheld by over-weaning politicians and badly planned protocols, a meeting is taking place between several men whose conversation suggests they are in a very competitive – and illegal – enterprise.
They are interrupted by a dark figure, a small figure with a mane of hair that would rival Bob Marley. Shots are fired – shots that go right through the small figure – who turns to the doomed man behind him and demands answers to three questions, which he gets, though things don’t go quite as he wanted. And so begins Gabriel’s quest to deal with the evil that struck him down and continues to hobble the post-disaster city of New Orleans.
There are things that he needs to know – like the Bussard who led the mob in the past is not the same Bussard whose corruption helps keep relief from getting to the victims of Katrina. There’s a missing girl – a girl whose last act before vanishing was to attend a prayer meeting five blocks from home. There are also the police who investigate the death of the man Gabriel questioned.
How did Gabriel know about the meeting he interrupted? That’s explained, and gives us the impression that there is more going on here than merely a little crimebusting – and the appearance of a terrifying new figure in the last panel alludes to the more spiritual side of Gabriel’s story [spirituality being one of the tenets of the Virgin Comics line].
Although Nicolas Cage and his son, Weston, are credited with creating Voodoo Child, the script and art on the book are by Mike Carey and Dean Reuben Hyrapiet. While this makes one wonder how much of the story was actually created by the Cages, what really matters is whether the book is any good – and it is… very good, indeed.
Mike Carey’s script presents a unique and challenging beginning to a saga that is that rarest of rare things in comics – a fresh twist. That manner in which voodoo plays a part in the story – rather, is central to the existence of the main character – is, so far as I can recall [and I’ve been reading comics since the fifties], unique. I’m going out on a limb and assuming that he’s done his homework [he did travel from England to New Orleans to get reference material and soak up the atmosphere, after all] and that the voodoo elements of the story are reasonably accurate. One thing’s for sure, he seems to have the Louisiana Creole dialect down…
Dean Reuben Hyrapiet’s art is sleek without being overly detailed – which is important when your lead character is a ghost who literally haunts the shadows. At times, his work strikes me as reminiscent of Mike Ploog’s work on Werewolf by Night because of its fluidity. He has a real handle on how to put together effective layouts, and his use of blacks and blues really add a creepiness to the books atmosphere.
If you’re a comics fan who’s looking for something a little [or a lot!] off the beaten path, Voodoo Child is an auspicious debut and might just be what you’re looking for. And I say that as one who is no longer easily impressed by a comic.
Final Grade: A-
EM Review Posted by Sheldon Wiebe
Originally Posted 07/12/07