This past Free Comic Book Day, I discovered a very cool erotic sci-fi / supernatural comic book titled Vescell, which is published by Image Comics. The book is written by Enrique Carrion and drawn by John “Roc” Upchurch. Carrion was signing at Carmine Street Comics, and I picked up a copy of the latest issue, #7. Although the purple prose was flying fast & furious in Carrion’s script, and I was a bit confused about the backstory, I did really enjoy the issue. Soon after I found copies of #s 1, 4 and 6 as well, which I also enjoyed. And issue #8 came out a few weeks ago.
Vescell is set at some point in the future (I think it is the future) some years after our Earthly reality became linked with a dimension known as Abdehenna, aka the Banerealm. Set in the metropolis known as Icarus City, the protagonist of the title is Mauricio “Moo” Barrino. A former police detective, Barrino is now an agent for Vescell, a multinational company which specializes in “V-trans” procedures, the transferring of a person’s mind & soul from one body to another. Vescell is run by Barrino’s amoral aunt, and at times he finds that his desire to remain an honorable individual is at odds with his employers’ unscrupulous business practices. That said, Vescell’s chief competitor is Cybercan, a truly ruthless corporation that engages in a fair share of blackmail, extortion, and violence. So, at the very least, Barrino can regard himself as an agent of the lesser of two evils.
Barrino’s partner is a size-changing fairy named Machi who possesses a voracious appetite for food, especially pancakes. The two have an unrequited love, made necessary by the fact that if they consummate their relationship Machi will lose her powers. Barrino is also romantically involved with a woman named Avery who is trapped in the Banerealm, and can only be summoned back to Earth mystically for a very short time. Avery seems to have a shady past, and a number of people have warned Barrino that if he continues his relationship with her, it will undoubtedly end badly.
In the newest issue, Barrino and Machi are asked by their friend Artaya to assist a woman in finding a new soul. In a previous issue of Vescell, the artificial intelligence named K.A.T.I. was transferred into the body of a living woman. K.A.T.I. wishes to truly be a mother to her host body’s young daughter, but without a soul she can only approximate human emotions. Now obviously a soul isn’t something you can just go out and buy at your local K-Mart, but they can be found in the Banerealm. A reluctant Barrino agrees to take on the mission, joined by Machi and Artaya. The trio is joined by the Doc, who is an expert on mystic lore, and by Lieutenant Vega of the Paranormal Authority Agency. Vega is suspicious of Barrino after her run-in with him back in issue #4, and is there to make sure he keeps his nose clean.
After a cross-dimensional journey via an ocean liner / dirigible, the group arrives in Abdehenna. At first the quest to obtain a soul seems to be going smoothly. But then Barrino spots his girlfriend Avery, still stuck in the Banerealm, in the arms of her old lover. Next thing you know, the air is heavy with testosterone, followed almost immediately by a rain of bullets, as Avery’s demonic beau Nephestus & his gang have a shootout with Barrino & his allies. And so the rest of Barrino’s quest is spent with his rival dogging his heels, ready to put a bullet between his eyes.
On the whole, Vescell #8, “The Heart of the Soulless,” was quite good. Carrion and Upchurch have a really nice collaboration going. Carrion pens some very dialogue-heavy sequences, which is great, because it means that it takes more than five minutes to read an issue. As for Upchurch, his storytelling is extremely solid, and he does an excellent job “directing” the various talking heads sequences, giving them a great deal of drama.
Because Vescell #8 was a double sized issue, the art chores were split up among three people: Upchurch, Lorenzo Nuti, and Dave Acosta. Upchurch drew the first half, Nuti contributed two pages in the middle of the book, and Acosta finished up the issue. I really wish Upchurch could have drawn the entire book. No offense to Nuti or Acosta, but their work, while nice, was just too loose and sketchy, at least compared to Upchurch.
Additionally, in the second half of the story, Carrion’s scripting became a bit sparse, with a number of pages that contained very little dialogue. And, after a gradual build-up over the first half of the book, his plot then seemed to be rushing to get to a finale. The pacing just seemed off on the later part of the issue.
“The Heart of the Soulless” does come to a somewhat hasty, abrupt conclusion, as Barrino completes a key part of his quest to acquire a soul. The bottom of the last page indicates that the story will be continued in a trade paperback. I have not been able to locate any information about when that is being released. Hopefully soon, because despite a few missteps, I did enjoy Vescell #8, and I am definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next. And I certain hope the series is able to continue beyond that. Carrion is a talented writer who has devised a very intriguing world populated by interesting, multi-faceted characters.