Hall and Kindt
have been getting a lot of good buzz around the Internet lately for their
series Pistolwhip. Recently a side-project called Mephisto and the Empty
Box was offered by this team as a sampler for their work at an affordable
price of $3.95. The buzz coupled with a self-contained story was enough to
entice me into giving this series a look.
The first thing that struck me about the book is the excellent
production value. The book is more of a magazine sized format which lends
itself to getting it on bookshelves where it certainly belongs. A
beautiful painted cover evokes classic film noir, while also emphasizing
the haunted feeling of John, the lead character. This book is an excellent
of what comics should be before you even open the cover.
It is difficult to discuss the plot without giving away major points
of the story. Newlyweds John and Carolyn attend a show featuring a
magician with the stage name Mephisto and a large
magic box that he utilizes for his tricks. The box, adorned with a
devil-like facial mask, resembles a coffin and could easily be considered
the antagonist of this story. During the magic show something goes
severely wrong and John finds himself inheriting the role of Mephisto and the curse
of the magic box.
This story is the stuff that old Twillight Zone episodes are made of,
yet that's not to say that it has no personality of its own. Jason Hall has written a
tale that is absolutely haunting and sticks with you for days after
reading it. John's anguish is conveyed excellently, varying between
hopeless obsession and mournful loss. Hall's dialogue is dead on, yet he
also knows when to let the artwork tell the story.
Kindt's art is a much "cartoonier" (as much as I dread to use the
word) style than most mainstream comic readers will be accustomed to, but
his use of facial expressions and nuances is better than the majority of
artists working for the major companies. There are several sequences in
this story where no dialogue is used for pages, yet Kindt's art has to go
beyond depicting action, also depecting emotion. Many of these silent
pages stand out as the strongest in the issue as they do the best job of
displaying John's pain.
For $3.95 this book is really a steal. A self-contained story with a
great build-up, a great ending, excellent artwork, and all for only a
dollar more than you might spend on the latest issue of a monthly title
you are only buying out of inertia anyway. Plus, this book is that it's
perfect to hand to the friend who has no interest in superhero comics.
There is a five page preview at the Pistolwhip website (listed above) that
you should give a glance. If you are even vaguely interested it's a $4
gamble that is well worth your money.