On the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign, UK scribe Simon Birks delves into the universal themes of death and redemption in this twisted, violent tale of a troubled young woman named Hope. Despite a fascinating, tragic young protagonist and a clear, strong narrative voice, the true sin hampering this book is inconsistent artwork.
Sinners is one of those books I really wanted to like a lot more than I did. This isn’t to take anything away from the book’s creator, Simon Birks, an award-winning UK writer with a diverse resume that includes plays, screenplays, and prose works.
The core concept of Sinners is a sound one, and Birk’s strong narrative voice and solid character development will stay with the reader long after they turn the final page of this first issue. The book’s protagonist, an unfortunate young woman named Hope, is a fascinating study in self-abuse and survival, who reacts realistically to her strange predicament.
Upon discovering her new half-dead existence, Hope’s first reaction is to panic. When she encounters a mysterious gentleman and his sinister black limo, Hope’s innate pragmatism kicks into gear and she quickly gets on board with her new “pickup and delivery” job as a chauffeur for the world’s most egregious sinners.
Although there are a few bumps along the way, including a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful suicide attempt, it was refreshing to see a character who reacted so realistically, instead of plunging headlong into a mad situation with proverbial guns blazing. In fact, Hope doesn’t even know how to shoot a gun and can’t fathom using a firearm as anything more than as a scare tactic. It’s only after she discovers a stash of hard cash in the limo’s glove compartment that she resigns herself to her fate.
Birks takes great pains to construct a believable fictional world in Sinners, laying a solid foundation for the book’s unique internal afterlife mechanics, while keeping the setting and characters real and grounded. It is this skewed sense of the familiar, impregnated with a healthy dose of the weird, that draws the audience in and lays the groundwork for a strong narrative voice.
Where Sinners falls down a bit is in the artwork. Although RH Stewart’s layouts are clear and his style fresh and original, his strength is obviously in backgrounds. Each panel is packed with detail and innovative design, allowing the eye to track through pages and panels with ease. However, the same careful attention is not evident in Stewart’s rendering – particularly faces, which often fall flat and lack emotion.
While setting is always an important part of the creative formula, the equation will refuse to provide solutions if one or more elements lack the consistency and craft of the others. While it’s easy to buy in to the core concept of Sinners, thanks to Birk’s strong character development, it’s also hard to maintain interest in the book when the art lacks care and consistency from the first page to the last.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some stunning visuals here, because there are more than a few, such as a bleak, breathtaking double-page spread of the dessert during the opening sequence. There just aren’t enough of them to carry Sinners along.
Sinners isn’t a bad comic. In fact, in many ways, it’s a damn fine one. Unfortunately, where the book misses the mark is in its lack of consistent artwork from beginning to end. I suspect, with a little more time spent in the editing phase during production, Birks and Stewart will be able to address this oversight in time for the second issue.
Sinners #1 is available for purchase here: http://darkoriginscomics.com/product/sinners-issue-1-hope-is-dead/
Simon Birks (W), RH Stewart (A) • Self-published, £4.00 (plus £2.00 for UK shipping; £6.00 for global shipping).