The first issue of Sean Lewis’s Clankillers does not waste any time. The reader is taken to a world of mad kings, petulant children, orgies, and goddesses. Along with the cast of characters, there are themes of rebellion, sanity, and depression. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but Lewis manages to do so without overwhelming his audience.
Clankillers takes place in Ireland as Padraig the Grotesque is on a path of conquest as he attempts to destroy every other clan and become the one king of the land. His daughter Finola does not agree with this and she and her friend Cillian are ready to commit the ultimate act of disobedience.
The writing shines in Clankillers. This is not just a book about bloody battles and horrible monsters (though it does have its fair share of those, and it is pretty violent). The story is about people more than anything else and Lewis deftly paints the main characters’ personalities and motivations. Along the way, the supporting cast is written strongly enough to realistically make one wonder if they will play a bigger part in the story. Everyone is a part of what is happening and there are no bystanders.
Padraig lives up to his name but is written in a way that almost convinces the reader to like him. It is hinted that he was once a good man and he seems to care deeply for his daughters. His actions are flawed but his motivations are justifiable. At times he is more of a sympathetic figure than the grotesque one Finola has made him out to be.
Finola is a complex character who also makes interesting decisions based on even more questionable reasons. Her actions do not seem well thought out and sometimes appear childish. Cillian is not much better and instead of having his friend stop to think about her actions, he seems to be pushing her forward.
The chaotic nature of Clankillers may be its centerpiece. Madness and immaturity fill the book. Every character makes decisions that seemed based on unsound thinking. Readers will question the characters not so much because they disagree but due to the uncertainty of truly knowing if said characters are mature or competent enough to make these choices. Due to this, the comic has an interesting tone that is as engrossing as it is confusing.
Antonio Fusso’s art pairs well with the story. Clankillers is filled with muted colors that enhance the dark tone. There are also some great close ups that speak as much about the characters as their actions do. There is a panel with Padraig that is particularly good. It’s impossible to tell what he’s thinking — or if he’s thinking anything at all. It’s a disturbing image that makes the character and story more interesting.
Clankillers is a story with large characters, themes, and actions. It’s unafraid to tell a story that is theatrical in scope without pausing to catch its breath. The mood and humor are dark with art that only adds to the insanity.