Heavy #1 Review: Max Bemis and Eryk Donovan Reimagine Purgatory

Heavy #1
8.5/10
Heavy #1 sees Max Bemis & Eryk Donovan imagine a unique version of Purgatory that feels like The Punisher meets What Dreams May Come.

Heavy, the new comic from writer/rockstar Max Bemis and Memetic, Cognetic, Eugenic artist Eryk Donovan, is a high-concept thriller that follows an assassin trying to work his way out of a very unique version of Purgatory. Vault Comics has been putting out some intriguing sci-fi and fantasy debuts this year, so how does Heavy #1 measure up to their impressive, and growing, catalog?

Heavy #1 by Max Bemis and Eryk Donovan. Credit: Vault Comics
Heavy #1 by Max Bemis and Eryk Donovan. Credit: Vault Comics

Heavy #1 is heavy on mythology, and there's a lot of this very unique world to explain to readers. Still, Max Bemis uses the lead character Bill's first-person narration to make it feel like we're sitting at a bar, listening to the craziest story we've ever heard. The narration has a Goodfellas quality to it, as we follow Bill the "Heavy," a man tasked with killing horrible people (and alternate reality versions of horrible people) to prune the "tree of possible realities." It's The Punisher by way of What Dreams May Come, told by a man who second-guesses himself, even his wording as he tells the story, constantly. Bill himself is as compelling as the unique world that Bemis has built with Eryk Donovan, and the two work together well to create a cohesive vision of a particularly strange version of the afterlife. The script is heavy on witty dialogue, and there are a few lines here and there that attempted a joke and fell flat, but overall it's a thrilling, funny, and intriguing read.

Heavy #1's artwork from Eryk Donovan and colorist Cris Peter handles the intricate world-building beautifully, building this world's version of Purgatory ("The Big Wait). As well as an alternate reality where Da Vinci is a tyrannical pervert who makes death-machines and makes servants suck his toes with equal attention to detail, creating beautiful set-pieces and funny, clever sight gags. There are a few incredibly gross scenes, including a panel where Da Vinci's half-chub is pointed directly at the reader, and the art team do what they were tasked with doing: making the reader shudder, laugh, and cringe. Max Bemis's script doesn't call for many sound effects, which is where letterer Taylor Esposito truly shines as he blends big SFX with the artwork, as seen in his Grimm Fairy Tales work. Esposito handles the dialogue expertly, though, with well-placed balloons and sparse but effective effects.

Heavy #1 is a win for Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and the whole team, reimagining a version of the afterlife that offers reward for hard work and, it seems from that final page, punishment when authority is questioned.

About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.