“It’s been about ten years since the day Hell came to Earth. It was a Wednesday. God descended from the clouds to usher the faithful to their heavenly reward – mortals called the event the Rapture, us demons named it black mass. We’d been waiting; it was due… we became the Earth’s new masters within an hour of the Heavenly Father’s departure. Seven years passed and though it was prophesized in the good book, God didn’t return to offer a reprieve to the converted. … Couple years after we showed up, I became the willing accomplice to a mortal girl goes by the handle, Bethany Black… Yeah, it’s self-applied. Beth’s the type of broad that kin get away with that kind of crap though, a genuine, self-taught diva of the occult.”
That’s the setting for Strange Girl, an Image series by Rick Remender that recently had its second collection. Strange Girl is a terrific comic book about faith and friendship as well as insanity and inhumanity. In this collection, Bethany and her demon friend Bloato find themselves taken prison in an underground military base being run by religious fanatics and ex-military people. In that base, they find that mankind can be just as inhuman as demons, and that sometimes the basest temptations can lead to some horrible events.
That’s all very interesting, but what sets this book aside from others is in its sheer humanity. The relationship between Beth and Bloato is wonderful. Despite the fact that they should be on opposite sides of the war, the pair are best friends, and we see their friendship in every scene that the two characters share. As well, Beth makes a new friend at the base, named Mouse, and their friendship grows in a natural and familiar way. Mouse has another really unique and moving scene when he recounts the story of his parents, long dead and buried, going up to the sky as part of the Rapture. In Mouse’s retelling, the Rapture scene is so odd, so completely different from what a reader might expect that I found it to be fascinating.
As good as the main part of the story was, I found the final chapter even more interesting. It’s a flashback to a time about four years after the Rapture, and recounts Beth’s adventures as she first adventures out of “the Corridor,” the large city where all the demons live. Harper Jaten draws this chapter, and he does a terrific job of presenting a spectacular widescreen tableau while drawing all the scenes in a compelling animated style. Consequently, the story feels sort of like a Disney princess movie gone crazily off its tracks. Beth goes seeking a jewel from a queen, while having exciting adventures along the way. But there are demons from Hell standing in her way. Jaten’s art is just perfect for this story, giving the chapter a very unique, intensely detailed style.
Which is not to slight the work by Eric Nguyen (on three of the remaining four chapters) or Jerome Opena (on the other chapter). Each of the three artists has their own unique take on Beth’s story. Nguyen supplies a very detailed, more realistic style to his chapters. His people look beaten up by the way, oppressed by the events that happened to them. The only one who seems to be even doing a little bit of what she likes is Beth, and she is mostly unhappy as well. Opena’s art is more claustrophobic, which fits his chapter. It also feels more conventionally powerful, which is a nice fit for the most action-packed issue of the set.
Strange Girl is an intelligent and thoughtful comic that also contains some really human moments. Oh, and lots of guns and demons. It’s a fast paced journey through a very scary world. It’s a good read.