Whenever a Lee Bermejo project is unveiled, you can reliably expect to be greeted by extraordinary and awe-inspiring artwork.
I mean, they are so good that I find myself buying comic books he worked on, not for the story but for the artwork only.
Titles such as Watchmen: Rorschach, Batman Noel, Suiciders, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, and The Joker serve as just a handful of examples from his extensive catalogue of comics and graphic novels.
They all feature meticulously crafted illustrations, and if you happen to own any of his many books, you'll likely find yourself revisiting them, not solely for the storyline, but primarily to just marvel at the artwork.
Having followed his work for a substantial period, when news broke that he was working on a new project, I was excited, obviously.
However, due to my familiarity with his prior creations, I assumed I knew precisely what to expect aesthetically; I couldn't have been more wrong.
A Vicious Circle
A Vicious Circle is a sci-fi three-part tale crafted by screenwriter Mattson Tomlin, brought to life through the illustrations of Lee Bermejo, and enhanced with vibrant colours by the same talented artist, while Becca Carey handles the lettering.
Published by Boom Studios, as of September 2023, we have the first two books out. The two deliver a narrative that combines elements reminiscent of iconic classic movies like The Terminator, Time Cop, and Jurassic Park, all infused with a Cyberpunk 2077 essence.
Shawn Thacker, a highly-trained assassin from the future, is driven by a desire for revenge against the only other individual afflicted with their unusual abilities.
Each time they take a life, an involuntary journey propels them through vastly different periods in history. Their ongoing battle of wills spans diverse landscapes, ranging from the futuristic streets of 22nd-century Tokyo to the vibrant, jazz-infused atmosphere of 1950s New Orleans, and even to the ancient Cretaceous Era and beyond.
These mortal rivals are locked in an enduring struggle that transcends countless millennia, all in pursuit of altering the course of history itself.
The beautifully rendered black-and-white aesthetic of the opening pages serves to anchor Shawn in the familiar everyday and ordinary life, all the while infusing profound emotional depth into his familial bonds.
This artistic choice proves remarkably effective in establishing and enriching the characterisation of the main protagonist.
What is particularly impressive is the story's structural composition. It commences with a grounded portrayal, introducing us to a father striving to support his family in the challenging landscape of 1950s segregated America.
Yet, hidden within the narrative lies our protagonist's concealed secret. The inciting incident, somewhere in the middle of the book, abruptly thrusts us back to reality, gripping the edge of our seats as events escalate with each successive page. The true marvel here undoubtedly lies in Lee Bermejo's artwork.
While my expectations were high, the execution exceeded them. It was sheer excellence. There is a creative use of panels in relation to the events.
Full-page artworks are used to elevate key moments, particularly the black-and-white illustrations that will leave you entranced. Furthermore, the narrative does a good job of effectively portraying emotions, making this one of those rare books that evoke profound sentiments, particularly for the protagonist, while also adeptly introducing the antagonist.
These two characters serve as the emotional core of the story, a point driven home by the end of book 1. Additionally, the creative use of colour as a storytelling device serves as a navigational beacon for the reader, ensuring we remain firmly on track.
In sum, Book 1 serves as a robust and engaging opening to this story. While it's readily available in digital format, I wholeheartedly recommend acquiring a physical copy.
From Nazis to Knights, the second instalment of the Vicious Circle maintains a visually stunning experience throughout.
In fact, it resembles more of a cinematic journey due to its well-crafted pacing and the creative manipulation of panels by Lee. This issue delves deep into the complexities of time travel while also expanding upon the intricacies of the story's world, shedding light on both antagonists and protagonists and how the universe operates.
Remarkably, it accomplishes all of this without becoming overly self-absorbed, ensuring an engaging read from start to finish.
The dynamics between the two central characters are thoroughly explored in this instalment, offering some of the most exhilarating action sequences thus far. The interplay of colour and style is especially prominent in this issue, serving a crucial role in enhancing the narrative.
While this issue may initially appear somewhat chaotic, all the pieces gradually fall into place by the end. Just as in the first issue, there are moments that will genuinely shock and surprise readers.
The ending may seem to bring the story full circle, but the final pages turn everything on its head, leaving readers eagerly anticipating the direction the narrative will take next.
The two editions of Vicious Circle have presented us with one of the most skillfully crafted time travel narratives I've read in quite some time.
It may sound unusual, but this comic offers an effortlessly digestible reading experience, even though it explores a complex theme and concept.
The way they manage the exposition makes the book approachable for those who may not typically gravitate toward science fiction.
Above all, if the story doesn't captivate you, the breathtaking artwork alone will undoubtedly hold your attention.