Incarnate #1 cover image
Every time Radical Publishing sends out press material regarding Nick Simmons and his new comic book miniseries, Incarnate, the top line of the press release usually says, “From Nick Simmons, son of rock legend Gene Simmons and star of A&E’s Gene Simmons Family Jewels…” Pushing the celebrity angle of a new product isn’t a bad idea, especially in a crowded market in a shaky economy. For the press releases regarding the second issue, however, Radical should say something along the lines of “Man, this is a good comic book!” because this is indeed a good comic book.
Incarnate’s dark fantasy narrative revolves around Mot. Mot is a Revenant, one of a group of immortal, ageless creatures. Their origins are a mystery, but humanity has feared, scorned, and even worshipped them since time immemorial. At least some of them apparently have a taste for human flesh, which they can tear through like a kid on cotton candy. Mot may be the sexiest of these gods/devils/monsters. He looks like a bishounen or androgynous version of Neil Gaiman’s goth-inspired Death from his revered comic book series, The Sandman. Mot’s lithe body suggests a leisurely life, but he does get worked up about killing.
Incarnate #1 opens with Mot returning to an unnamed city. Ready to dine on humans again, Mot hooks up with fellow Revenant, Conner, a newbie who works as a killer-for-hire with a unique way of getting rid of his victims. Sensing a wrongness in the city, Mot takes Connor to meet fellow Revenant Ripley, who leads what he calls a “Clubhouse of Forgotten Gods.” Ripley has some troubling news. The Revenants ancient enemy, a family-run business called, Sanctum, is scouring the city for Revenants, and they’re getting closer to their target.
Incarnate, which the publisher describes as an “American Manga,” bears the marks of a passionate creator. Some might argument that craft is more important than enthusiasm in creating comics, but so many of the top comic book writers and artists in mainstream comics seem stuck in a rut. They deliver highly polished, professionally produced comic books that reek of corporate culture and brand management.
This first issue of Incarnate doesn’t lack craft. For what I’m assuming is a first professional solo effort at creating a comic book series, Nick Simmons is good – surprisingly so. Still, this little narrative machine runs on enthusiasm and passion, and that is reflected in what a fun read this is. Twelve hours after first reading Incarnate #1, and I’m still going back trying to convince myself that this is a sham. I couldn’t have liked this so much that I’m… hungry for the next issue. I can quibble about the occasionally awkward dialogue and exposition, but this is visually appealing dynamite.
Simmons, with art assists from Nan Kim, Ben Harvey, Shi Hua Wang of Studio Il, has produced a graphic narrative that explodes off the page. It’s as if Simmons and company ascribe to some gospel of Neal Adams – let no panel of comic book art be uninteresting. This is kooky and fun ultra-violence, but it also has the weird visual inventiveness that mainstream comic books used to have (pre-Modern Age) and manga still has.
Incarnate has an excellent lead character in Mot – flitting about the pages like a homicidal Peter Pan, and this series also has a talented storyteller, capably assisted by his creative cohorts. Best of all, Incarnate has a winning for issue, which will hopefully lead to a winning follow up.
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