Sunday Slugfest – Of Bitter Souls #1

A comic review article by: Craig Johnson, Michael Deeley, Jason Sacks, Mike Storniolo
Michael Deeley

A dirty cop, a hooker, a crackhead, and a compulsive gambler are given superpowers to fight vampires and other evil forces.

This first issue does a better job of setting up the series than most first issues. We get a good idea who these people were, what they can do, and what the series will be like. How they became who they are and who brought them together is a story for future issues. In this issue, we see each person being taken by a teleporting priest. Three years later, they’re killing vampires with their strength, shape-shifting, time-reversing, and intangibility.

But as far as comics go, it’s kind of light. It’s a quick read; there’s only one fight, and not much by way of exposition. As far as horror comics go, it’s not bad. It’s nice seeing Norm Breyfogle working on another series. (Sorry about ‘Worldwatch’, Norm.) His penciling is good, but his inking not so much. He needs an inker who can bring some “flourish”, a little more style to his work. Breyfogle’s inking on his pencils make the art look flat and stiff.

So, not a bad start. A decent premise. Still lots to learn, but still a lot that could go wrong.

Jason Sacks

It's nice to see Norm Breyfogle back working in comics again. I think the most recent thing I read by him was the Hellcat mini from Marvel in 2000, a shame because I always loved the work he did on Batman in the late '80s and early '90s. He was always a solid storyteller, and his character work was very consistent and clear. He wasn't a flashy guy like McFarlane and Liefeld were at the time (perhaps to his financial detriment), but Breyfogle was a very solid and professional cartoonist.

Which is why it's nice to see him back, in this solid new series. Of Bitter Souls is a kind of supernatural super-hero series, with super-powered men and women tracking down supernatural threats. This sort of comic is right in Breyfogle's wheelhouse, especially combined with the solid writing of Charles William Satterlee and colorist Mike Kowalczyk. We get a lot of action and excitement in this origin issue, but also some nice character moments and some moments of real creepiness.

In this issue readers meet a group of four leather-clad evil-fighters. Each has been dragged from their normal lives, by an unknown being, seeming to fight the specter of evil in New Orleans. We meet a corrupt cop, a drug addict, a grifter and a prostitute who are all summoned at one of the lowest moments of their lives to be part of this new team, Few if any answers are given in this issue as to why these people are used in this battle, but there's enough to intrigue a reader.

The storytelling is well-done, Silent scenes are used effectively to counter wordier scenes, and a scene where time is reversed is done in a really intriguing way. It's clear that Breyfogle and Satterlee have thought deeply about the world of Of Bitter Souls, and therefore the comic promises much more than what we just see in this debut issue.

This is a very solid and intriguing first issue. It's great to see Breyfogle back, and he's chosen an intriguing project in which to be involved.

Mike Storniolo

Overall, Of Bitter Souls provides a decent set up to the story at hand. The biggest thing to me was some of the questions that it left me wondering about after reading. For instance, while taking a tour through a cemetery, tourists are attacked by vampires. How did the Carters become vampires? Was it something that happened before death? Why do they stay in their coffins to surprise attack instead of freely roaming? Are the Carters the only vampires around?

The four people who were chosen obviously didn't lead perfect lives. Did their criminal tendencies have any bearing as to why they were picked? More than anything, the issue intrigued me and I'm hoping that the second issue provides us with a little more information as the story progresses. Satterlee's story seems to be leading up to a big picture while tossing in little snippets of their past history and a present task to face. The dialogue flows smoothly and sounds natural which is always a plus on the story side. Each character, obviously, has their own defining traits and powers and I'm hoping to learn more about them in future issues.

Norm Breyfogle hasn't lost a step in my book. The cover is wonderfully rendered and makes it hard not to turn the page so fast to dive into the book. Each character, background and thing in the story is drawn with a great understanding of perspective, action and anatomy, while not over-detailing things. The color choices really heighten the moods of the story and give the book a wonderful feel while reading it.

Of Bitter Souls #1, while I might have felt it didn't quite tell me all that I wanted to know at first, serves to lure me into reading the next issue to find out! I am curious as to why they were chosen, what their powers are, how vampires and other legends tie into the story and just what the priest has planned for them.

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