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Mike Carey's One-Sided Bargains

By Al Kratina
February 5, 2007 - 19:07


I think Mike Carey has sold his soul. That must be why he's able to concurrently write what feels like about 15 titles a month, working on books as varied as X-Men to Lucifer. So perhaps Mike Carey’s One-Sided Bargains, a one-shot Image comic revolving around deals with the devil, is more of a cathartic admission than a work of fiction. Maybe Carey has bargained for success in the comic book industry, and perhaps the payment will be his eternal damnation, or maybe he'll just have to keep writing the garbled and childish Wetworks until the end of time.

Despite what the wholly inaccurate blurb on the back would have you believe, One-Sided Bargains consists of three, not two, stories from Carey, two illustrated in black and white, and one prose tale with paintings by Michael Gaydos. The first is a version of Germany’s legendary story of Dr. Faustus, updated for more modern audiences. And by updated, I mean cleaned up, streamlined, and condensed, not re-cast with high school students and set in the Southern California drag racing circuit. Carey's Doctor Faustus is told from the point of view of his assistant, and features the same cold, merciless, but still poetic vision of the ethereal that marks the same writer's Lucifer. The pencils, by Captain America's Mike Perkins, are clean, crisp, and classical, and augment the story's cold touch with a clinical, precise feel. While the detached mood and the still-dense narrative might have been distracting in another's hands, with Carey the story never gets dry.

The second story, the brief Suicide Kings, is not, as the back would suggest, "A Victorian Era Gothic horror story about a little girl lost and the Satanists who choose her as their sacrifice". Instead, it's a story about a bunch of meat-packers playing poker. Tomato, tomahto, I suppose. Anyway, the story is short, but tense, with an ending that's mysterious without being too oblique. Paul J. Holden's pencils are much sloppier and blockier than Perkins', providing a contrast, and giving a more blue-collar feel to the story. It's effective, and has a more visceral impact than Doctor Faustus, due to its contemporary setting and punchier pacing.

The final story is a text piece, accompanied by one beautiful but unnecessary painting by Michael Gaydos. An upbeat, comedic piece, the story is essentially Carey threatening to feed his critics to tigers, in a roundabout way. So, to prevent my mauling, I'll point out that story is funny, brief, and deadpan, like Buster Keaton if he wrote instead of blinked. It has nothing to do with selling your soul to the devil, per se, and the last page is printed on the inside of the back cover, so it feels just a little bit like filler, but the story's fun, which lightens the book considerably and provides a sense of humor that varies the tone of the book. Carey may have sold his soul to the devil, but at least we get to read stuff like this, which almost makes up for him losing his soul, and for me reading Wetworks.

Rating: 8 on 10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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