There’s something to be said for a comic in which the Pope gets raped, even if it’s simply, “How do you like it?” Whoops, sorry, crossed the line there. But I suppose this is the place for it. Frank Tieri’s Pestilence: A Story of Satan #3 is a tale of knights, plague-ridden zombies and a hip, foul-mouthed Lucifer; exactly the kind of try-hard, controversy-baiting story that suits a joke about Catholic molestation. Luckily, though, my gags don’t come with illustrations.
I’m being unfair, anyway – that whole rape business was last issue. And Pestilence: A Story of Satan #3 is a better chunk of the story, even if that’s a bit like being the best-looking reanimated plague victim. It is, unfortunately, still blighted by the same problems as the first two issues, and since those problems seem baked-in on a conceptual level, it doesn’t strike me as something the series will recover from. Of AfterShock’s current on-going historical fiction books, such as Clankillers and Brothers Dracul, Pestilence is easily the worst.
In this issue, Pope Price, now controlled by Satan and presumably walking with a bit of limp, ferrets out a conspiracy that seemingly includes the Knights Templar. Roderick, his family and the Fiat Lux hack their way through the English countryside in search of a way to give the Devil his due, encountering a mysterious woman named Isabel. And off the coast of Portugal, some buccaneering baddies sail into the story, I think we can safely assume with ill intentions.
What works about this book – namely Oleg Okunev’s art and Rob Schwager’s colours, both of which I enjoy despite myself – works better in Pestilence: A Story of Satan #3 than it has in the first two parts. I actually found this to be a handsome issue, with a nice range of settings and styles, all of which worked, in my estimation. That, though, is where the compliments end.
It cannot be understated quite how much I dislike the writing in this book. Tieri’s attempts at mature storytelling seem to consist of littering every caption with the word “cunt”, and having every metaphor be about cunts, and every character be a cunt, and now I’ve typed the word so much it doesn’t mean anything. Far from being shocking or impactful, it’s lazy, childish, and frequently hilarious – most notably in the exact moments that it shouldn’t be. Roderick berating his chums for swearing in front of his kids is a joke in itself – he’s been doing it throughout the series!
But the Satan character is the worst. The idea of a down-with-the-kids, wise-cracking devil isn’t, I suppose, an entirely terrible one, but the execution here is appalling. Pestilence: A Story of Satan #3 doesn’t contain the worst instances of the character’s dialogue, but it certainly doesn’t contain the best ones, either. Perhaps that’s because there aren’t any. He isn’t funny. He isn’t scary. He isn’t interesting. And he uses idioms that I’m pretty sure weren’t in circulation in the 14th Century and probably won’t be for another few hundred years. What can I say – I’m anal about stuff like that.
Maybe that was a poor choice of words.
Pestilence: A Story of Satan #3 / $3.99 / 32 pages / Color / on sale 07.25.18