There's no actual contest, though this is a general and pretty profound reaction looking at the comics this week, and each week always brings a few disturbing comics, or many. That's certainly one of the points of comics–to disturb you and shake up your perceptions.
But I reviewed the first issue of Rich Tommaso's Dark Corridor from Image with some nods to how "dark" it was and an appreciation of how Tommaso, as artist and writer, handled that, however I had no idea what he was setting us up for! This is no holds barred fairly twisted violence and seediness on a scale I don't think I've seen in a recent comic, certainly not one you might think is an "art" comic when you pick it up.
Does it serve the story, though? Yeah, it does. Look at the title. We should never have been under any illusions. The subtitle for the comic series is "Mysterious Adventures in the Crime-Ridden City of Red Circle". And Tommaso isn't speaking poetically here–though he has plenty of noir roots in his work and has at times created more period-set pieces in a more mannerly tone, Dark Corridor seems to represent a major departure for the indie cartoonist into areas that have interested him for some time but haven't yet found such direct expression in his work.
I'll skip ahead for a moment to Tommaso's essay in the back of this issue where he tracks his levels of interest in violent or action-based films over time, going through quite a hiatus, then a sudden return to hyper-violent films that also make him "laugh" through seeing Machete several times. Typical of Tommaso, who I believe always encodes some degree of emotion in his work, he presents us with the situation surrounding re-watching Machete as looking after his ailing father as a caregiver for many exhausting hours. I mention this because we all know that real life can be far more disturbing than fiction for us and even hyper-violent narratives may pale by comparison.
This issue of the comic carries on the two storylines Tommaso set forth in the first issue, namely one following "The Red Circle" and the life and times of Carter, jumping into the past and back to the present in his history and the circumstances of his personality and lifestyle that seem to invite total meltdowns. This installment of the story is incredibly disturbing because of the offhand way violence erupts, the totally nonchalant way in which Carter reacts to it, and watching him invite the sexual and personal conflicts in his life that are bound to implode. Tommaso thoroughly convinces us that Carter is a timebomb and as is also true of films featuring such characters, it's very hard to stop watching however horrified you might be.
The second narrative, "Deadly Daughters", featuring rather stylish assassins taking down a crime syndicate (a plot which does tie into Red Circle, too), seems to find new ways to render itself disturbing in relationship to the aesthetics of the comic. I feel like I never want to see a knife again, Mr. Tommaso. Wow. In all seriousness, Tommaso has a very interesting way of building up a sense of cacophany of an rapid action in his panels and his choices are strong ones in making you feel personally invested in the outcome of virtually every fight scene. You also develop a degree of sympathy and concern for central sister Nicole, although you may be a little horrified by her own calculating brutality in pursuit of her mission.
So, blood, guts, shattered skulls and bones, bodily fluids, this issue has it all. I'm writing this article as a form of warning but also as an expression of my admiration–Rich Tommaso is really an adept comics creator and here he's venturing into zones I might not have fully expected but which display just as much care, attention, and yes, even humor, as I might expect from him.
He's giving violent comics a run for their money. And he's doing it so damn stylishly.
Look out for Dark Corridor #3 coming from Image Comics on October 7th and currently listed in Previews World with item code: AUG150486