“The Sins of the Father” (part 1)
Early on in the book one of the characters declares “This makes no sense…it’s madness…madness.” Having not read Salem #0, I felt the same way. Two men wearing Colonial-era cleric garb and a woman are confronting a vicious, sharp-toothed talking tree. Threats fly. The tree hissingly accuses one of the clerics of treachery, bringing up a question that will bother me the rest of the issue: Why would a tree hiss? Creak, maybe, but hiss?
Though creators Chris Morgan and Kevin Walsh hit the ground running with their story, they have by page eight provided a context and explanation for most of what’s going on. The talking tree is an effigy of the Queen of Thorns, “the darkest sliver of God’s own soul.” One of the clerics, the one with the scythe, is Hooke, “the fist of God, witchbane.” He’s devoted his life to destroying the Queen of Thorns. Hooke’s two companions are Deacon Thomas Wood of Salem (hmm, Wood, Queen of Thorns, a possible eventual connection there?) and Hannah Foster, a witch – well, healer actually.
This is basically an origin issue, and as such it works fairly well. There’s not a great deal of action going on, but Morgan and Walsh do a good job of setting up the basic conflicts of the storyline: Hooke against the Queen of Thorns; Hooke against the members of his former order of Confessors; and the Queen of Thorns against God and humanity.
You don’t get much of a feel for Wood and Hannah’s personalities, other than they’re under stress and their emotions are all over the place. I can’t help but feel though that the seeds of a tortured romance between the honest, faithful cleric and the “witch” are being sown here. A relationship between these two would make a vivid contrast to the driven Hooke, and offer a human story as a balance to the Queen of Thorns’ and the Confessors’ machinations.
Wilfredo Torre’s artwork is the perfect match for this story. He brings a mixture of blocky strength, fine inks, and clear composition to the table. The page showing the Crucifixion of Christ and the birth of the Queen of Thorns is incredible in its intensity. A later panel depicting Hooke riding off to confront the Queen combines a background that looks like a Japanese ink drawing with Mike Mignola-like character design in the foreground. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
As for the characters’ looks, Hooke has a Clint “Man with No Name” Eastwood/Wolverine/Jonah Hex vibe going for him; while the Queen of Thorns is something like a wooden Alien Queen – lots of teeth and pointy appendages. Wood and Hannah are less distinguished, which actually adds to their characterization as two normal people caught up in abnormal events.
Salem Queen of Thorns #1 is a solid introduction to a series that will appeal not only to fans of Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker and REH’s Solomon Kane, but also those who are just looking for an intriguingly different kind of story.
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