[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Storytellers: Eduardo Pansica & Justin Jordan
Dialogue: Justin Jordan
Inks: Julio Ferreira
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Wes Abbott
Joe has a problem and Annie can see that it is getting worse. Brimstone is working his way to the forefront and it is becoming harder to tell if Joe is the one still in control. When he and Annie stumble across the town of Vernon, Florida. In the ledger, it appears untouched by the Salesman and they wonder if this time they can beat him to the punch and gain an upper hand. The only problem? The townspeople are gathering victims for a monster who can extinguish Brimstone’s righteous flames. Is she La Bel Dame Sans Merci that the title references? Is this new town already lost?
This issue opens with a battle against another of the Salesman’s creations. When Annie is threatened we see Joe react without the compassion that has come to define his actions and moral center. It’s a disturbing warning that Annie tries to confront him about, only to hear Joe dismiss it callously. But, the things we push down tend to flare back up. When they are in the next town sitting down at a diner Annie is having trouble getting answers from the waitress Joe loses his cool. He grabs the waitress by the arm and catches fire. Annie has to interrupt to make him stop.
A nice creepy note about the people in the town. They are all missing at least one body part. Some are missing an eye or a finger. Others have lost an arm or leg. Clearly, they have been affected by something evil, even if it was not the Salesman.
New characters help the story grow. During a brief interlude near Raleigh, North Carolina a truck driver meets a young black woman wearing a pantsuit. When the driver tries to renegotiate the terms of their deal, a mask appears on the woman’s face and she mentally compels the driver to do as she says. No name not backstory, just a great display of power in a very short scene.
At the end of the story, Brimstone is trying to rescue people that are being sent off as sacrifices. When he starts to make their cages burn, the flames go out. And then Brimstone’s powers are extinguished. The answer is a woman standing in the water. She is wearing a blindfold with a crescent moon. She has white hair in a long braid. Her gray skirt is tattered and dripping.
When we see the driver again he is delivering people. It is a truckload of people, many speaking Spanish and there is the possibility that they were immigrants crossing the border into the United States who have no idea that they are being sacrificed. The driver is shocked and the townspeople only answer that they gave their bodies, and now they must give their souls. It’s an ugly example of the things people do to survive and it is a something that we have all seen before.
No real stakes established here. It’s clear that Joe’s struggle with his powers is part of a longer narrative. What’s not clear is how much closer he is coming to join the Salesman’s side. It’s taking an emotional toll, but that doesn’t mean that he is any closer to signing up to be the Salesman’s mascot. So, what is happening? I’m hoping we will learn that soon.
Despite the opening fight scenes, this was a story about introducing new characters and arranging chess pieces for the next chapter of the story. I think it can be a difficult process, but Eduardo Pansica and Justin Jordan do a nice job of using suspense to pull it off in this issue. But, now that we have established that the new players are making big moves I would love to learn more about their motivations and how this will come to impact the story of Joe and Annie.